There’s no place like home….
The words spoken near the end of the movie The Wizard of Oz define a sense of security and happiness. For Aitana Hernandez, a fifth-year senior member of the RiverHawks women’s golf team, home is where the heart is as a student at Northeastern State University.
Originally from Alicante, Spain, Aitana was searching for the opportunity to chase her dreams when she encountered NSU golf coach Scott Varner.
“I’ve played golf since I was seven years old. At age 15, I discovered that in Spain I couldn’t play golf and study at the same time. I knew that I wanted that opportunity which meant coming to the United States.”
One of the 15 offers received by Aitana included NSU coach Scott Varner’s invitation.
“I met Coach through a face time conversation and really liked what I heard. Since I wasn’t able to come for a visit, I didn’t know what I was going to see when I got here,” admits Aitana. “But from the very first moment I stepped on campus, everything was good.”
Varner’s message of a family environment where everyone supports each other wasn’t a recruiting pitch but just what Aitana wanted while chasing a dream to get her education and play golf year round.
“His words to me were true. Our golf teams, girls and men, do everything together. It’s like we’ve known each other our entire lives. I have a family here that I wouldn’t trade anything for in the world.”
A marketing major, Aitana says her professors are also like family. My instructors work with my schedule to make it fit our practice and travel demands. If you miss, they send you the assignments to stay up with the class. Altogether, they make learning fun.”
Varner was nothing but smiles while talking about Hernandez who has recorded 21 Top-10 finishes, ten times in the Top-5 on the leaderboard including a couple of major tournament titles to claim All-MIAA and NCAA All-Region honors.
“She is beloved and embraced by everyone in our community and on our team. We have become her second family and that is intentional,” said Varner. “Our golf program work hard to create a culture of family-encouragement and accountability. She has bought into that and for that I will always be thankful. Aitana is our Team MVP, our captain on the course.”
Teeing it up for her final season of competition, Hernandez is focused on joining her teammates on the golf course and qualifying for another NCAA national tournament ticket. She will graduate next May with a degree in marketing. Her plans include the possibility of playing professionally or a career in golf marketing.
“Coming to NSU opened one door for me to play golf. But more importantly, the experience has empowered me to open the doors to my future. I would say if you want to chase your dream and find a pathway to success, NSU is a place you can call home.”