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The Prospector

British-born golfer finds success in El Paso

Kirklevington%2C+Yarm%2C+native+and+UTEP+junior+golfer+Lily+Downs+has+eight+top-10+finishes+the+past+two+seasons.
Kirklevington, Yarm, native and UTEP junior golfer Lily Downs has eight top-10 finishes the past two seasons.

Kirklevington, Yarm, native and UTEP junior golfer Lily Downs has eight top-10 finishes the past two seasons.

Photo by Gaby Velasquez

Photo by Gaby Velasquez

Kirklevington, Yarm, native and UTEP junior golfer Lily Downs has eight top-10 finishes the past two seasons.

Mike Flores, Staff Reporter

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After a strong fall start to the 2017-18 season, Lily Downs is using the winter break part of the schedule to perfect her already talented set of skills.

As a sophomore, Lily Downs led the UTEP golf team in scoring average (75.1), was the Miners’ top finisher in four of its 10 tournaments, had five top-10 finishes and was named UTEP team MVP.

“After my freshman year, I told coach ‘I’m going to be your MVP next season. I’m going to work hard and get it,’” Downs said. “After I won team MVP my sophomore season, I told myself that absolutely have to get it and for the next three years, too.”

As a junior now, the United Kingdom student-athlete seems to be putting actions behind her words and wishes. With a lot to live up to after a breakout sophomore campaign, Downs seems to be better than she ever was now.

Only five tournaments into Downs’ junior season and she’s already accomplished what some players won’t do throughout a whole season. Out of the five team tournaments, Downs has been UTEP’s top finisher in three of them, she’s finished top 10 in three matches, has four top-20 showings and has the Miners’ best finish this season—coming in second overall in the FAU Fall Invitational with her performance of a nine-under-par 135—only two strokes away from topping the tournament winner Worapitcha Anndit (Seminole State).

All of Downs’ success in a short amount of time hasn’t gone unnoticed. In fact, in Downs’ illustrious career, she was named the Conference USA Female Golfer of the Week on Oct. 18, after picking up a pair of top-five finishes at the NMSU Aggie Invitational and at the FAU Fall Invitational the week prior.

But playing at a high level with high success isn’t new to Downs. Just where exactly did UTEP find a talent like Downs?

Well, Downs first picked up a golf club when she was 10 years old, when her father, Michael Downs, took her out to a driving range. At the time, Downs had no idea that golf would play such a crucial role in the life she lives.

From that time on that driving range, the rest just came from there for Downs and her golf career.

Prior to UTEP, Downs was a member of the Romanby Golf Club, where she was the junior captain, which included not only much-needed experience for such a young star, but also multiple wins with her club.

Being a winner is something that came early for Downs. She was the ladies’ Gross champion four times and the junior Gross champion in 2015. Downs owns the course record at Romanby.

With her impressive resume, Downs’ possibility of playing at the next level in college was real.

So more than 5,000 miles away in the city of Kirklevington, Yarm, UK, UTEP found what they were looking for—a golf standout in Downs.

When Downs first arrived in El Paso, she knew UTEP was the next best thing for her young career.

“When I came on my official visit, everything that coach showed me about UTEP was screaming ‘yes’ to me. The weather was perfect, so I knew that I could play year-round here, which I’ve never had the opportunity to do back home,” Downs said. “I knew UTEP could be a great opportunity for me, so I took it—I had to.”

Nonetheless, with all the changes that come with moving to another country, with no family or friends to lean on, it took some time for Downs to get used to the American lifestyle. Downs had no idea what to expect when it was finally time to leave the UK and come live in Sun City.

“When I got here (El Paso), I was lost. I didn’t know what to do. It hit me hard on how different home and here was at first,” Downs said. “Coach (Scott Lieberwirth) really helped me transitioning over here. Every problem I had I would ring him. I was like that freshman with every little question.”

Over her two and a half years of living in El Paso, the city has really grown on her. In fact, Downs finds herself missing El Paso and wanting to come back when she goes back to the UK for holidays and breaks.

“Over this past summer, I actually told my mom that I couldn’t wait to get back to El Paso. I couldn’t believe that actually came out when I was back home, but I definitely do see it as my second home,” Downs said.

An advantage that El Paso brought to Downs and her game was the change in weather compared to the Romanby fields. While El Paso brings playable weather of warmness and much sunlight, Romanby’s weather made it difficult to play outside with colder and wetter weather.

“Usually my season would start in April and we would finish in October at home because those were the only months that the courses would be in decent conditions,” Downs said. “So, what I love about here is that you could go outside whenever. I love having that option. I could wake up in the middle of November and go play if I wanted to.”

On the field, Downs is all about improving every week both individually and helping her team as a whole get to the top.

“I’ve done all these tournaments before, so when the younger girls come to me, I give them all my notes on the courses. When the tournaments come around and the freshmen need help with anything, I’m always there to help,” Downs said.

From her freshman year to now, Downs’ biggest area of growth has been her consistency throughout an entire season. And even with all she’s accomplished so far, Downs still sees a lot of room for improvement.

With the spring slate of the season starting back up on Feb. 12 at Texas State, Downs’ goals for the remainder of her season is to finish at least one of the tournaments under par, knowing that the spring courses are a lot more challenging. Her biggest goal though is for UTEP to win a tournament as a team and to win the conference championship.

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British-born golfer finds success in El Paso