In a sport known for unhinging the nerves and emotions of even the best players in the world, 17-year-old AnPhi Le seems immune to the pressures.
“She’s honestly very relaxed,” said Joe Cook, her golf coach at Urbana High School.
Le says she has some nerve walking onto the first tee. But then she slams her drive down the fairway and they’re gone as quickly as they got there.
To keep her nerves in check, she listens to music before the rounds, tries not to concentrate on the pitch beyond the next stroke and says that a conversation with her playmates calms her down.
“I’ve never looked at her and said, ‘Wow, she looks really nervous today,'” said Cook. “She is very consistent with her attitude. Doesn’t get too high. Doesn’t get too low. I think that honestly benefits her. “
Le’s mental health, as well as her vastly improved skills, have made her one of the best juniors in the country where she is today. It all happened in a relatively short time. She has only taken the sport seriously for the past two years, having tried it since she was 10.
On Thursday she won the 100th Maryland Women’s Amateur Championship at the Elkridge Club in Baltimore, and next week she will compete in the Girls Junior PGA Championship at Valhalla Golf Club in Louisville, Kentucky.
Le will be one of 144 players in the field after beating a slow start to finish second and winning one of the two girls’ qualifying courses at the Middle Atlantic PGA Junior Championship at Laurel Hill Golf Club in Lorton, Virginia on June 30th to secure.
“It’s probably the biggest junior tournament I’ve competed in,” said Le, three-time Frederick County Public Schools champion, of the Junior PGA Championship in Valhalla. “I’m really happy to play in it because there are so many good players and it’s a really big field.”
As a result, your nerves will likely be more active than usual. But Le said she will only focus on her next shot and “try not to worry about how everyone else is playing”.
She overcame a shaky start in the Middle Atlantic qualifier, which included a double bogey on her very first hole. After a 74th opening lap she was tied in eighth place and sat three strokes out of the qualifying cutoff.
But she gradually found her form and was the only player under par in the final round with a 1-under 70.
“I feel really good with my game right now and I’m excited to see how I’ll play,” said Le.
At this week’s Maryland Women’s Amateur, Le really loved her approach strokes and putting. During the four-day event, which included 18 holes in qualifying and then four rounds of match play, she did not have a single three-putt.
“I’m not surprised,” said Cook. “It has really improved a lot over the last year. She worked really hard for [big opportunities]. “
Le will arrive in Louisville on Saturday for the Junior PGA Championship. On Sunday and Monday she has the opportunity to play a practice round in Walhalla, where she estimates the speed of the greens, on which holes she does not have to hit a driver and where the best places to land her shots are.
Les goal is to make the cut, which comes after two rounds and divides the field in half.
“It would definitely mean a lot,” Le said of the cut. “There are so many good players and I definitely feel like I can play really well against them. I just have to, you know, stay calm and keep my nerves off. “
Follow Greg Swatek on Twitter: @greg_swatek