Bonanno’s experience as a student-athlete builds skills for successful future

Sabrina Bonanno, a recent graduate of the University of Arkansas at Little Rock and four-year veteran of the Trojans Women’s Golf Team, has been playing golf for as long as she can remember. 

Bonanno began playing golf with her father at the age of 3. One month later and the toddler/rising golf star already had her first golf coach. However, Bonanno said she didn’t get “serious” about golf until she was 6 or 7 and began playing in tournaments.

“Most kids got to play with their friends, but I got to play at the golf course,” Bonanno said. “During my junior year at Ridgewood Community High School in Norridge, Illinois, I started looking at schools to play golf, and I really wanted to go south. I liked Little Rock from the moment I stepped on campus and met my coach.”

Bridgett Norwood, head coach of the Women’s Golf Team, became a mentor and guide for Bonanno, who was living away from home for the first time.

“Coach Norwood really cared about how far you could go with your own game,” Bonanno said. “She cared about education. She helped me grow as a person and an athlete. She became like a second mom to me since we were all so far away from home.”

As a student-athlete, Bonanno had the opportunity to travel and challenge her skills as a competitor.

“During my freshman year, I won an individual tournament alongside a team win and that was one of my ultimate favorite experiences as a student-athlete,” Bonanno said. “We went to Utah the first semester of my senior year, and it was nice to experience a different place and culture. I constantly got to travel and experience these things with my best friends on the team.”

Bonanno and fellow members of the golf team give back to the community by volunteering as assistant coaches at Central Arkansas First Tee and at charity golf tournaments. She was also a member of UA Little Rock’s Student-Athlete Advisory Committee, which offers input on the rules, regulations, and policies that affect student-athletes. Although Bonanno is no longer eligible to play collegiate golf, she plans to volunteer with the team as a graduate student.

Sabrina Bonanno ends her Trojan career as a second team All-Sun Belt Conference selection. I
Sabrina Bonanno ends her Trojan career as a second team All-Sun Belt Conference selection.

“We have two golf tournaments. Coach Norwood doesn’t have an official assistant coach, so I want to help her plan those tournaments. I always want to give back to the golf team,” she said. “I can also practice with the team, and it’s a good opportunity for me to be involved in something I already missed.”

In May, Bonanno was named a second team All-Sun Belt Conference selection. It was the third all-conference honor of Bonanno’s time as a Trojan, capping her stellar career in Little Rock. Bonanno ends her Little Rock career making quite a mark on the Trojan record book, ranking third all-time in career scoring average (75.76) as well as career rounds played (120). She ranks second all-time in career birdies (250) and is tied for first in career eagles (five), finishing among the individual top-20 in 30 of her 41 events played.

One of the things she misses the most about being a student-athlete is the closeness of her golf family.

“My coach and everyone associated with the golf team worked together as a big family,” Bonanno said. “The Athletics Department staff was great at getting someone if I needed help with school or needed someone to talk to. We were always, always together. We were all like sisters, and it was so sad to see the girls who graduated because it’s like you lost a family member. That’s the hard part about being on a team. You always look forward to meeting up with them afterwards.”

Bonanno graduated in May with a bachelor’s degree in marketing. She is spending the summer getting some professional experience as a marketing intern at The Hill Group in Franklin Park, Illinois, before returning to UA Little Rock in the fall as a Master of Business Administration student and graduate assistant at the Arkansas Small Business and Technology Development Center.

Coach Bridgett Norwood and the UA Little Rock women's golf team
Coach Bridgett Norwood and the UA Little Rock women’s golf team

“I am hoping for some potential opportunities to work in Little Rock in the sporting industry, specifically golf, and maybe try to play some golf tournaments,” she said. “It’s always been a goal of mine to play professional, but if that didn’t work out, I would still play as many amateur tournaments as I could.”

After she completes her MBA, Bonanno definitely has a future in golf in mind, even it’s not as a professional athlete.

“Coaching golf has definitely crossed my mind. It’s just another way for me to be involved in the game,” she said. “Seeing the opportunity I got, I would love to give another girl the opportunity to say the same thing, and I would probably try to stay at the collegiate level because you get to recruit students from all over the world and get the best out there.”

In the end, Bonanno credits UA Little Rock for making her a better person.

“UA Little Rock has definitely made me the person I am at this moment in time,” she said. “I was 10 hours from home, so I had to become an independent person. It made me more outgoing. I started traveling to other states and doing things that I wouldn’t if I lived at home. I realized what other opportunities were out there that were provided by UA Little Rock. I formed a network of opportunities and everything that goes along with that.”

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