Earlier this month, Waltrip golf senior Nadia Davila made school history—but to her coach, it was simply the culmination of what he always knew she could accomplish.
“She was already a great kid and good player [when I met her], and she kept getting better and better,” Waltrip Head Coach Daniel Davidson said.
Though the result was a historic finish, Davila’s path wasn’t all smooth sailing, as the senior struggled through a bit of a tumultuous district tournament. Out of that struggle, however, came a newfound determination.
“She guaranteed me she would get to state after that,” Davidson said. And Davila delivered.
Upon reaching regionals, she used a strong first day to catapult herself up the leaderboard and hold off a late slump, becoming the lone HISD golfer to crack the ranks of the state’s best in 2017 before finishing in the top 40 at the state tournament. Davidson credited Davila’s laser-sharp mental state and ability to compartmentalize for the ability to stay focused on the larger picture even as she struggled down the stretch.
“Golf is extremely mental — you can be great and not even come close to the top of the leaderboard, but you just have to start over on every single hole,” he said. “If she had a bad hole, she just had to refocus, play smart, play the greens well — course management is huge. That helped her get back on track.”
“You’ve got to have a good attitude—if you’re in a bad mood or have a bad attitude playing golf, you’re going to play horribly,” he added. “That’s a lot of what my job is, just keeping them calm and relaxed — you can’t play good golf if you’re not having fun.”
While Davila’s appearance in the state tournament was a monumental step for Waltrip and Houston ISD from the outside looking in, Davidson said the play was simply what he’s come to expect.
“She could’ve made state easily last season,” he said. “Like several of my players, I expect her to play well every time she goes out there.”
From the moment Davidson took the reins, he said, the prevailing stigma was “HISD can’t play golf—this isn’t a sport for them.”
“It’s really special for me and for our program. We win district every year and do decent at regionals, but now I’ve got kids coming up that I expect not just to play well, but excel,” the fifth-year coach said. “We’d get to regionals, and everyone would look at us kind of funny.”
Now, however, thanks to the play of Davila and the rest of his team, Davidson feels change stirring — in the results and the mentality.
“I go up there and I know all the coaches, because they expect us to be there,” he said. “They know we’re turning the program around and are putting in a lot of work to do so that other schools around here don’t necessarily do, and it’s brought us to that level we’re going to consistently be at.”
Though Davila will be moving on to St. Thomas University, Davidson feels his program is in strong hands thanks to the play of Christian Rodriguez, among other returners, and that Davila’s breakthrough was just the genesis of things to come.
“I absolutely expect him [Rodriguez] to make it to state next year. I’ve also got a freshman who went to regionals this year, and if she works hard, she can be up there too,” he said. “It was great for the program, to see Waltrip up there with Lamar and Bellaire. We’ve raised the bar, and we’re expected to be good every time we show up, which is pretty cool — because it was not that way beforehand.”