Gig Harbor High School sophomore Sean Vaovasa has been all over the place during his lifetime. He grew up in Korea, moved to China when he was about 8 years old, then moved to the United States when he was 11.
The reason? Golf.
Vaovasa started playing golf when he was in China, and he realized pretty quickly that he had the potential to be pretty good.
“Golf is bigger and better here,” Vaovasa said. “I wanted to play college golf.”
So Vaovasa came to live with his grandparents and attended school in Federal Way. A little over a year later, his parents came to the states with him. It was a dramatic leap for himself and for his family, making the shift to a new country and a new culture.
“It’s completely different here,” Vaovasa said. “Basically, my family moved here because of me. I wanted to play college golf. … Golf is really important to me. I work really hard.”
Vaovasa, who speaks Korean and Chinese, in addition to English, moved to Gig Harbor at the beginning of the 2016-17 school year. His parents own a pho restaurant in Uptown Gig Harbor.
“It’s quiet compared to Federal Way,” Vaovasa said. “It’s better for golf. There’s better courses.”
Vaovasa said it was tough leaving Federal Way.
“All my friends were there,” he said. “So that was hard.”
Now, Vaovasa is one of the state’s top golfers and has garnered interest from big schools such as the University of Washington and Washington State.
“He’s got a great swing, he’s very consistent and he puts in a lot of effort,” said Gig Harbor golf coach Billy Landram. “He stays and works on his short game a lot. He puts a lot of time into it.”
That kind of work ethic is what sets Vaovasa apart, Landram said.
“When we’re done with practice, he’ll go back and practice on the range,” the coach said.
Vaovasa has medaled in every match this year, including a 3-under effort against Timberline last week at Madrona Links. Vaovasa hopes to keep the momentum rolling into the second half of the season and beyond.
“I want to get to districts and to state,” he said.
The toughest task for the Tides in league will be undefeated Capital. Gig Harbor won’t face Capital until May 2 at Olympia Country Club.
“I know they’re good,” Vaovasa said. “That will be tough.”
Gig Harbor is also undefeated in league, with a 3-0 record so far. There’s a chance Gig Harbor and Capital could both be undefeated prior to the matchup, leading to a league championship showdown in early May.
“It’d be fun if we were both undefeated going into that one,” Landram said.
And if the Tides are going to knock off the Cougars, Vaovasa will likely be a key contributor. As for his plans after high school, Vaovasa said he hopes to play college golf locally.
“Probably at the UW — that’s my goal,” he said.