Nestled in the heart of The Valley of the Sun, it only makes sense that the Phoenix (Arizona) Xavier College Preparatory girls golf program shines like it does.
Under the astute direction of coach Sr. Lynn Winsor (who since the early 1980s has gone by “Sista”), the Gators have been the model of both excellence and consistency during the past 31 seasons, as they won every Arizona Interscholastic Association (AIA) Class 5A (largest enrollment class) state championship during that span except three.
Xavier Prep’s 28 state championships ranks No. 1 in the National Federation of State High School Associations’ (NFHS) National High School Sports Record Book, and holds a healthy 11-title lead over the nation’s runner-up in that category. With 16 consecutive state titles from 1980 to 1995, it is tied with Chattanooga (Tennessee) Baylor High School for that national record.
As of September 20, the Xavier Prep program extended its national-record winning streak to 162 matches. Xavier Prep had previous winning streaks of 128, 123 and 77 matches, which also appear in the Record Book.
In addition, Sista holds the national record for girls golf career coaching victories. Since beginning her career at Xavier Prep in 1974, she has amassed a win-loss record of 384-25 ‑ which equates to an amazing winning percentage of 93.9 percent.
However, more than just numerous state titles, incredible winning streaks and glossy coaching records, the Xavier Prep girls golf program is perhaps best known by how it develops its young student-athletes into successful and productive women after they graduate.
“Our golf program is well-known for winning with integrity, lifetime friendships made, number of collegiate scholarships awarded, stability of coaching staff, and Xavier’s reputation and nationally known academic and athletic success,” Sista said. “Xavier’s golf prowess has been publicized locally and nationally and girls are drawn to the school. For me, seeing girls grow into moral, intelligent, motivated and successful young women is wonderfully fulfilling and gratifying.
“With regard to my name ‘Sista,’ the girls on the golf team see that as a term to call me instead of ‘Sister Lynn’ or ‘Coach.’ The Xavier Prep faculty members, as well as all of the athletic directors I know, also call me that.”
Since 1979, 22 Xavier Prep girls have won AIA state individual golf titles. Heather Farr won three consecutive state titles from 1979 to 1981, and in 1982, her sister, Missy, won the state title. In 2003, Amanda Blumenherst broke the Arizona individual scoring record with a nine-under-par two-day score of 135. According to Sista, much of Xavier Prep’s winning tradition began when Heather Farr was a Gator.
“In 1979, when a young golfer named Heather Farr enrolled at Xavier College Preparatory, the face of Xavier golf changed,” Sista said. “Heather’s three state titles and sense of team play began the great tradition of Xavier golf.”
Sista, who is also the school’s athletic director, has distinguished herself at the national level, including serving as president of the National Interscholastic Athletic Administrators Association (NIAAA) in 1994. Among her many recognitions, she received both the NIAAA State Award of Merit and the NFHS Citation in 1989, the NIAAA Distinguished Service Award in 2000 and the NIAAA Award of Merit in 2006 (the NIAAA’s highest award).
When asked to compare the girls from her first team with those on her present-day one, Sista noted both differences and similarities.
“In 1974, junior golf was not as well known,” Sista stated. “In 2011, the girls who come to Xavier are more skilled and more cognizant of what golf can do to enhance their lives. High school girls love making close friendships, love having fun, and look for support from their parents and coaches, and golf is one medium to help make all these happen.”
Even after they graduate, the Xavier girls stay in touch with Sista and their high school alma mater. That fervent allegiance was perhaps best demonstrated at an anniversary dinner held five years ago.
“It is amazing how the Xavier golf girls write, e-mail, Skype, phone or text me,” Sista said. “We say at Xavier, ‘Once a Xavier girl, always a Xavier girl,’ and this surely applies to Xavier golf.
“In 2006, the Xavier College Prep golf team won its 25th Arizona state girls high school golf championship. As part of this “silver season,” all the golfers who played under me for those 33 years were invited to a 25th-anniversary dinner. There were approximately 130 girls who were on those teams and more than 80 attended the celebration. Xavier golf alumnae came from California, Tennessee, Texas, Nevada and Florida.”
The current edition of the Gators is carrying on the fine tradition established over the years and appears to have its own distinct personality.
“This fall, Xavier golf has a balanced look – three seniors, five juniors, three sophomores, two frosh and one senior manager,” Sista explained. “We have won all of our matches to date and have wonderful camaraderie. The team spent a weekend together up north in the cool pines, played golf, bonded and had a terrific experience. The team has as its goal to win all its matches (12 for the season) and take state.”
While success certainly has its inherent rewards, Sista derives greater satisfaction from other sources.
“Teachers and administrators get to know their students, but a coach has the opportunity to relate in a special way to the students,” Sista said. “I cannot imagine not coaching. The joys and rewards of helping student-athletes achieve success and become well-rounded and happy cannot be duplicated.”