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Smith snags Youth on Course scholarship
Hannah will play golf for Alvernia
Hannah Smith will continue her golf career at Alvernia University in Pennsylvania. Randy Cerny (left), Smiths coach for four seasons at Ceres High, attended her signing ceremony. - photo by DALE BUTLER/The Courier

Since the inception of its scholarship program in 2008, Youth on Course has awarded 204 students with scholarships totaling more than $1.2 in financial support.

Headquartered in Pebble Beach, the non-profit organization awarded 28 high school graduates from the class of 2017 with college scholarships totaling $315,000.

Youth on Course will be covering a portion of Ceres High grad Hannah Smith's college tuition.

Smith will play golf and major in nursing at Alvernia University in Pennsylvania.

"I found out about Youth on Course through the River Oaks Youth Program (four years ago) and since then it has given me really amazing opportunities," said Hannah, who will be receiving a $4,000 scholarship from the organization.

Youth on Course serves as the charitable arm of the Northern California Golf Association. Its core purpose is to provide youth with access to life-changing opportunities through golf. This is achieved through initiatives that include subsidized rounds at partner courses, mentorship opportunities through caddie programs and paid internships, and scholarship grants for qualifying members. Currently, Youth on Course serves California, Oregon, Washington, Idaho, Nevada, Arizona, Utah, Illinois, Missouri, Kansas, New Mexico, Kentucky, Minnesota, Wisconsin, Ohio and Michigan with plans to expand nationwide.

"Youth on Course's mission is to provide young people with access to life-changing opportunities," Youth on Course Executive Director Adam Heieck said. "Presenting our members with access to college through these scholarships is the final piece of our core purpose and ties together everything we do."

Smith applied for the scholarship in December.

After making it past the first step of the process, which included submitting transcripts and an essay, Hannah was interviewed by members of the Youth on Course team at the Poppy Hills Golf Course in Monterey.

Smith and the other 27 scholarship recipients were recognized at a special ceremony staged at the Firehouse Restaurant in Sacramento.

"In addition to our scholarship, we were awarded brand-new laptops," said Hannah, who had a cumulative grade-point average of 3.5 at Ceres High.

Smith became a member of Youth on Course four years ago.

"It was the best program to get in because it has given me an opportunity to play golf for lower prices all over the state and get to experience different and more challenging courses than just what we have at home," she said.

Hannah helped Ceres High continue its tradition of excellence in girls golf.

The Bulldogs advanced to the Sac-Joaquin Section playoffs four times, captured one Western Athletic Conference Championship and posted a combined record of 37-9 in league play during Smith's four years on the team.

"She's one of the top three golfers this school has ever seen," said Randy Cerny, Ceres High's head coach from 2010-16. "Her competitive spirit is very strong. She has a great heart. She's a very special young lady."

Smith wrapped up her prep golf career with a ninth-place finish (93) at the Sac-Joaquin Section Division-IV Championships this past fall.

She tied for sixth (105) at the conference's year-end tournament.

She earned first-team all-WAC honors.

Hannah filled a major role in leading Ceres High to its seventh consecutive postseason berth.

The Bulldogs finished second in the WAC's overall standings.

Ceres High made history in 2014 by claiming its first-ever conference title. The Bulldogs won all 12 of their WAC dual matches. Ceres High placed first at the conference's mid-season and year-end events. The Bulldogs posted a team score of 513 on their way to a program-best runner-up finish at the Sac-Joaquin Section Division-IV Tournament. Ceres High took 14th overall (534) while competing at Masters for the first time. The Bulldogs were third at the prestigious Merced Tournament.

Smith tried out for Ceres High's golf team after taking lessons at River Oaks the summer before entering high school.

"Every season, she got better," Cerny said.