Aleanna “Ally” Mendoza picked up a set of toy golf clubs at around 5 years old quite naturally and progressed into swinging real clubs.
Her older sisters, Gabby and Aiko, were already playing golf and came up ahead of her at St. Bede Academy, both earning All-BCR recognition.
It’s been the goal of their younger sister all along to keep up the family tradition.
“Honestly, I’ve just wanted to pick up where they left off,” Mendoza said. “It’s been about four years since my last sister played and I wanted to make my coaches proud and my dad proud. Everyone, except for my mom, golfs in my family, and I grew up in it and to love this sport and I want to at least continue in college.
“I love keeping the name alive for now.”
She’s done plenty to keep the family name alive.
Mendoza carried a 44.7 average, 1.3 strikes lower than the next area golfer, and finished as the top points scorer in the Three Rivers Conference, leading the Lady Bruins to an undefeated season of 13-0.
Aiko was the 2016 BCR Golfer while Gabby routinely received All-BCR First Team notice.
Ally follows her sisters as the BCR 2020 Female Golfer of the Year. She is a third-time All-BCR First Team pick.
“My coaches wished we were all able to play together on a team, which would have been nice,” Mendoza said.
So who would win if the sisters, and their father, Adel, all met on the golf course now?
“I honestly don’t know,” Mendoza said. “My sister Aiko, she gets hurt easily. Like right now, she just dislocated her thumb, so I’m not sure how she would do. I feel like me or my dad, possibly (would win).
“My dad wants to play a foursome with me and him against Aiko and Gabby one day.”
Mendoza said there would be no family feuds on the course, “because I feel like we all support each other.”
Mendoza started the season out “rough” trying to stay consistent with her short game and wasn’t exactly sure how to fix it.
“I was shooting up in high 40s and once shot a 50. But after that, I was able to redeem myself and get back to where I was this summer,” she said. “Gradually got my average down which I was happy about. And I’ve been working and still working to get better for next year.”
Having to start the season wearing a mask walking the fairways didn’t help either, but the IHSA soon relaxed on its COVID-19 regulations after about a week and a half into the season. Mendoza joked the change of orders was announced the day their gator masks came in and they didn’t need them anymore
“Beginning of season was difficult, because we had to wear a mask and it was really hot and I was getting light-headed too quickly,” Mendoza said. “(Social distancing) wasn’t that hard to work with it. Everyone’s spread out on the golf course for the most part unless you’re on the green or tee box. Even on the bus, it wasn’t that bad.”
St. Bede coach Rich Cummings said Mendoza, like all golfers, were just happy to be playing.
“She put in lots of hard work over the summer so playing with excitement to get the most out of something that could have been taken away at any moment,” he said. “She got off to a bit of a slow start at least by Mendoza standards. Aleanna is never satisfied with any round she always looks back at what she could have done better. But she turned that around quickly.”
Mendoza and the Lady Bruins just missed out advancing to sectionals as a team by one stroke, placing third at the Sandwich Regional. Mendoza led the Lady Bruins with a 98 to place 10th, two strokes from advancing.
Only the top two teams and four individuals not on those teams advanced this year due to the COVID-19 restrictions. Typically, three teams and 10 individuals advance.
“That was really upsetting, because I was hoping to make sectional all my four years,” Mendoza said. “But considering the circumstances, where only two teams could make it and four individuals, obviously it was a little harder to make it. And I was fine overall, although at regionals my front 9 was horrible. I could not find my swing. But then my back 9, I was able to redeem myself.”
She’d like to go out in style next year, and “hopefully make state.”
“Aleanna has come a long way and still with one year remaining will continue to improve,” Cummings said.
One golfer who was most impressed with Mendoza's game was fellow Bruin Nathan Potthoff.
"She hits the ball a long way and her short game is pretty good, too. Just her irons. She’s a good golfer," he said.
Aiko, 21, is finishing up her undergrad studies at St. Ambrose University and played for the Bees golf team. Gabby, 24, who is working on her residency in physical therapy in Elmhurst, also attended St. Ambrose University and played golf.
Ally would like to follow in their footsteps, all the way to the golf course there.
“Both my sisters went to St. Ambrose and I really like the school and I’ve met the golf coach and he’s really nice. And they have a program I was looking to get into the next four years,” she said.