All-News4JAX girls golf: Alaska-to-Florida move pays off for Anika Richards

The All-News4JAX fall sports teams will be released Dec. 27 through Jan. 5. (News4JAX)

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Anika Richards had three months to get all of her golfing in for the year.

Not quite the blueprint for a successful golfing career. It’s difficult to be a serious golfer growing up in Alaska.

To unlock her potential in the game required a big time move for Richards, from Kenai, Alaska to Fernandina Beach just about three years ago. Now, Richards, the All-News4JAX girls golfer of the year, is able to get on the course year-round, save for the occasional trip back home to the snowy terrain of Alaska.

“We have something that we always say, it’s like your Alaska good. And then you get to the lower 48 and then you go to the golf capital in Florida and it’s dog eat dog,” she said. “I mean, it puts you down but then you learn to work hard as you can and get back up and learn to beat the other girls.”

Anika and her sister, Katelin, moved down to Nassau County, largely to be able to play golf more than just three months a year. Both were already very good golfers in Alaska. Katelin won the Alaska State Women’s Amateur Golf Championship when she was 14 years old. Anika finished fourth in that tournament when she was in middle school.

But doing much more in golf living in Alaska wasn’t going to be easy.

“We only played about three months a year and that’s why we ended up moving to Florida. It was not a long enough season,” Anika said. “You would get there and you would get your swing down in the summer here, and then by the end of the summer you had to forget it because all winter long you couldn’t hit.”

The plan was originally to move somewhere in Georgia, but Anika said one of the family’s connections there suggested looking at Fernandina Beach.

Two months later, they moved there.

The Pirates thrived with Anika and Katelin in the lineup, reaching the state tournament in all four of their combined seasons. Katelin, two years older than Anika, is a sophomore now at the University of Albany. This season, Fernandina Beach took state runner-up honors in the Class 2A tournament. Anika shot a 3-over 147 to finish fourth in the event.

But even being able to hit balls in late fall and throughout the winter is something that never gets old, she said. On her trip back home for Christmas break, Anika said that she forgot just how 20 degrees felt.

“It’s so nice to be able to go hit balls in December and January. And I’ll like text my family here and it will be snowing. It’s been 20 degrees here and I’ve been seeing the temperatures there. It’s like 70 of my friends are going to the beach.”

All-News4JAX girls golf team

First team

Player, School, Class

Madelyn Campbell, Fernandina Beach, Sr.

Why she’s here: District runner-up with 3-over 75. Went 78-81 for 15-over 159 at state, tying for 15th. Second-team All-News4JAX selection last year.

Nancy Cox, Ponte Vedra, So.

Why she’s here: Four-over 76 at district to take runner-up honors. Shot 3-over 75 for T-10 at region. Went 78-79 (13-over 157) for T-20 at Class 3A state tournament.

Alexandra Gazzoli, Matanzas, So.

Why she’s here: Two-time All-News4JAX first-team selection. Region runner-up with 2-over 74. Went 74-70 for even-par 144 in Class 2A state tournament.

Tori Mouton, Bolles, Sr.

Why she’s here: Two-time All-News4JAX first-team selection. District champ with 1-under 71 and region champ with an even-par 72. Went 71-79 (6-over 150) for T-28 at state meet. State runner-up last season.

Anika Richards, Fernandina Beach, Sr.

Why she’s here: All-New4JAX girls golfer of the year. Two-time All-News4JAX first-team selection. Second-team selection as a sophomore. District and region champ with 72s. Went 72-75 (3-over 147) to take fourth at state. Samford signee.

Second team

Player, School, Class

Madison Balaskiewicz, Bolles, Jr.: District runner-up with a 2-over 74. Took third at region with 3-over 75. Shot 78-82 (16-over 160) for T-55 at state.

Maddie Rathjen, Bartram Trail, So.: Went 77-80 (13-over 157) for T-20 at state tournament. Carded a 5-over 77 at district to take third. Shot a 3-over 75 to T-10 at region.

Helena Rios, Bartram Trail, Jr.: Shot a 79 at district to take fourth. Carded an 84 at region. Went 83-78 (17-over 161) for 31st at state.

Violet Robbins, Bolles, So.: Third at district with 5-over 77. Was T-4 at region with 4-over 76. Shot 79-87 (22-over 166) for 74th at state tournament.

Emma Wells, Providence, So.: T-4 at region with 76. T-4 at district with 79. Shot 76-88, (20-over 164) for T-68 at Class 1A state meet.

Honorable mention

Golfer, School, Class

Daisy Adams, Fernandina Beach, Sr.

Shanya Arasu, Nease, Jr.

Tory Barned, Ponte Vedra, So.

Carmella Carlisi, Flagler Palm Coast, So.

Abrianna Carstens, Bartram Trail, Jr.

Alexa Fallis, Bishop Kenny, So.

Candace Jackson, Keystone Heights, Jr.

Emma Joost, Bolles, Sr.

Sahana Chokshi, Episcopal, 8th

Alyzabeth Morgan, Fleming Island, Fr.

Annabelle Mozingo, Providence, Sr.

Anaiya Nahar, Bolles, Fr.

Addy Vogt, St. Johns Country Day, Fr.

About the Author:

Justin Barney joined News4Jax in February 2019, but he’s been covering sports on the First Coast for more than 20 years.