Victoria Trapani stood at life’s crossroads and didn’t know where to turn. Trapani
was just a sophomore at Auburn in 2012 when she learned cancer metastasized in the
lungs of her mother, Kim.
“I’m not going to lie, I thought I wanted to quit and I was going to transfer back
home and be with my mom,” said Trapani, now a senior in accounting in the Raymond J. Harbert College of Business and former Auburn women’s golf standout who will graduate this summer. Head Women’s
Golf Coach Kim Evans stepped in and encouraged Trapani to take some time off.
Weeks later, Evans was diagnosed with ovarian cancer. “She was like my second mom,”
Trapani said. “You hit this wall of no feelings and you don’t know what to do.”
Enter Auburn Women’s Golf Assistant and former player Danielle Downey -- who returned
to finish her degree and helped run golf operations while Evans, who recently retired
from coaching, recovered from chemotherapy treatments.
“Danielle was the one that brought me out of my slump,” said Trapani, who earned Freshman
All-SEC honors for 2011-2012 and finished her career with the ninth-lowest average
in school history (75.05). “She said, ‘sitting around being upset is not going to
help you, it’s not going to help your mom and it’s not going to help the team. You’re
really hurting yourself and you’re going backward, not forward.”
Trapani – who as a youth in Hollywood, Fla., dragged a pull cart with borrowed clubs
with her bicycle every afternoon to a nearby driving range and vacuumed the pro shop
and retrieved range balls nightly to pay for practice -- rebounded in 2013 and helped
the Tigers finish sixth at the NCAA Championships in Athens, Ga.
But the night of Jan. 31, 2014, changed everything. Downey was killed in a single-car
accident near Auburn. “Right when everything was going in the right direction …” Trapani
said. “I have a hard time putting into words what I felt like. Obviously, my grades
suffered. I was trying to play golf, live life and deal with everything that was going
on. It was really hard.”
Thursday, Trapani -- who once mowed lawns just to pay junior golf tournament entry
fees in south Florida -- will make her professional debut via sponsor’s invite/exemption
at the Symetra Tour’s Toyota Danielle Downey Classic in Rochester, N.Y.
“This is probably the best circumstance I could have – to be honoring Auburn for the
last time and somebody who was a big part of my life,” said Trapani. “Danielle really
helped me come out of a dark place and I could never thank her enough. I’m honored
that I was chosen. Regardless of how I play, I know that she will be smiling.”
Amy Murphy, Director of Accounting Graduate Programs, beams when asked about Trapani.
“Victoria is everything that the Auburn Creed describes about an Auburn woman,” Murphy
said. “She has never had everything given to her on a silver platter. What she has
earned, she has earned based on her own hard work and her ability to use her 'hands
to work skillfully.' She is such a strong young lady and has a 'spirit that is not
“It’s been an honor and privilege to have served as a mentor and advisor to Victoria,
and I believe that I’m a better educator today because of my interactions with her.”
Though Kim Trapani was originally diagnosed with breast cancer in 2008, she continues
to vigorously battle the disease today.
“She was one of four people to be chosen for a cancer vaccine and she’s tripled the
survivor rate for all stage four breast cancer patients,” Victoria said. “The past
couple of months it metastasized again in the pleura, above the lungs, and it’s causing
her lungs to fill with fluid. She has to get them drained every day. She’s on another
new chemo that is supposed to help.”
Trapani believes her mother and father, Robert, will make the trip to New York.
“It’s going to be emotional for me and my parents,” she said. “I don’t think my mom
would miss it for the world regardless of how she was feeling.”