Last June, as a 15-year-old in her first year at Concord-Carlisle High, Gabrielle Shieh found herself in a high-pressure situation on the links.
After shooting 76 to tie Boston Latin’s Anne Walsh atop the leaderboard at the Massachusetts Interstate Athletic Association’s girls’ golf state championship, Shieh prepared for a sudden death playoff to determine the champion.
The good friends battled for an unprecedented eight holes at Heritage Country Club in Charlton before Shieh prevailed.
“It was pretty nerve-wracking because I had never been in a playoff that long,” said Shieh. “I just tried to stay in the moment and focus on each shot. [Winning a state title] shows that hard work pays off. Now I’m focusing on working harder to achieve more things.”
While executing under such circumstances may be the highlight of Shieh’s young career, she is no stranger to the big stage.
Just two months prior, the 5-foot-3 Carlisle resident won the Drive, Chip, and Putt national finals at Augusta National for the girls’ 14-15 age group. Shieh said she felt extremely comfortable at the event, which precedes the famous Professional Golfers Association Masters’ Tournament, because her sister, Karolyne, seven years her senior, was right alongside her as her caddy.
“I was so proud of her,” Karolyne said.
“It’s such a big venue and stage to showcase your talents. She kept her composure so well and I was really impressed with her ability to stay calm and perform really well.”
When Gabrielle was five and Karolyne was 12, their 8-year-old brother Christopher sparked their interest in golf.
Both sisters took to the sport, and with an early start, Gabrielle soon began to thrive.
“I remember we were teaching Gabby how to swing,” said Karolyne, “And she picked it up so easily. It came to her so naturally, and now her swing is beautiful.”
By the age of seven, Shieh was playing in local Massachusetts tournaments; by nine, she was on the New England PGA junior circuit. Two years later, Shieh competed in the 11-14 division of the US Challenge Cup and continued to test her skills on a local and national level prior to joining her high school team.
“I’ve played a lot of tournaments,” said Shieh, “And regardless of how they go, I always try to find something to learn from them. I look at each one as a learning experience to try to grow from it.”
Because Concord-Carlisle doesn’t have enough golfers for a girls’ only team, Shieh cut her teeth at the school with the co-ed team in the fall of 2016.
Playing from the same tees as the boys, she competed in every match her first year, finishing as the number two scorer overall.
“Without a doubt, [Shieh] is the most talented freshman I’ve seen, and it’s not even close,” said Concord-Carlisle four-year coach Josh Gianotsos.
“She has a lot of poise. She doesn’t seem to get nervous or rattled. When she gets out on the course, she just flips a switch, turns it on, and takes it to a whole different level.”
For Shieh, it doesn’t necessarily matter who she competes against, because the joy of golf is often found in self-improvement.
“Because golf is such an individual sport, you have to really rely on yourself,” she said. “I consider myself an independent person, and I like golf because you’re the one in control.”
Over the past several years, she says her life has essentially revolved around relentlessly honing her golf game, while maintaining a 4.0 grade-point average and spending time with friends and family.
She’s learned a lot from her sister’s friend, Megan Khang, a Rockland resident who has spent the last two years competing on the LGPA tour.
Karolyne plans to move back to Boston this summer and work with Lee Khang, Megan’s father, in the hopes of qualifying for the tour this August. The Florida Tech graduate envisions a future where she might be on tour with her good friend and younger sister someday.
On June 4, Shieh will compete in the North/Central/West sectional final at Townsend Country Club, hoping to qualify for the individual state championships June 13 at Thorny Lea Golf Club in Brockton.
She is preparing for numerous national tournaments this summer, beginning with the USGA Junior Girls National Championship June 20.
“It’s hard to keep up with all her accomplishments,” said Karolyne. “I know she’s destined for big things and I’m excited to see her get to the next stage and really show the world what she can do.”
Shieh is also looking ahead towards competing with the co-ed team next fall, as she’s been named the first female captain in the history of Concord-Carlisle golf.
Shieh “always really seemed to value the team game as much as the individual,” said Gianotsos.
“Even as a sophomore, she started taking the new kids under her wing. She won their respect pretty early. She has such a thirst for knowledge about the game, she’s almost another coach out there. I don’t think anyone was surprised when it was announced she would be captain.”Nate Weitzer can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.