Katie Vongphoumy came to America from communist-ruled Laos in 1982 when she was only 20. She had been trying to get here for a long time. Her first escape attempt as a teenager failed, and she ended up spending two years on a slave labor “farm”, partaking in the utopian paradise created by the winners of the wars of the 1970’s in Southeast Asia . On her next escape attempt, Katie made it to Thailand, and then America. Katie and her husband Sam, also a refugee, settled in Rhode Island and had four daughters. On Monday, their oldest daughter Juliet did something no other girl has ever done – she won the state high school golf championship, beating all the boys by two strokes.
Juliet is only a freshman at LaSalle Academy, and “a peanut” to boot – five feet tall, a shade over 90 pounds. It was funny to hear the discussion on local radio the day after her win: “And she doesn’t even belong to a country club!” Imagine that! Juliet “plays out of” Button Hole, a great place that uses golf to teach inner-city kids important lessons about life (and a client of New Harbor Group). Apparently, you can learn to play just as well at Button Hole as you can at a country club.
Seeing the picture of tiny Juliet playing a shot against a backdrop of trees on the course just reinforced that it’s all about heart. I was grateful to Juliet and her family for reaffirming – again – the American Story: sacrifice, hard work, focus, drive, commitment…success. And it doesn’t matter where you come from.