TAMPA — When Sickles sophomore Alex Milan was learning to play golf, she was taught to build her game against the long ball. And Milan was fine with that.
"My driving has always been good," she said.
Now the other parts have come around. Specifically, her short game.
"I've been working on (that) so hard," Milan said. "My coach told me as soon as I got that under control, I'd shoot a whole different level of golf."
That level was reached Monday. In the Class 2A, Region 4 tournament at Heritage Isles, Milan shot a blistering 8-under-par 64 to win the individual title over Wharton's Shena Yang by three shots. Milan's sensational effort came only one week after she eclipsed her previous low of 69 at districts. Before that, her best was 71.
Milan's bogey-free round Monday included eight birdies. She missed 6-foot birdie putts on 17 and 18.
"I knew she was capable of it," Sickles coach Mark Mann said.
As a freshman, Milan had a 36.7 nine-hole average. She entered districts this year at 35.9. "She's a little more focused this year, a little bit more mature," Mann said.
The biggest difference, however, might not be in her head but with her play around the green. In the past, Milan has performed well off the tee; her drives are typically in the 250-yard range. Likewise, her iron play has been good. The added dimension is improved chipping and putting.
On Monday, Milan missed four greens in regulation, but scrambled to make par each time. She credited that to an increased emphasis on her short game.
"My (instructor) said, 'I want you to have Jack Nicklaus' long game and Lee Trevino's short game,' " Milan said. "This has been awesome to see all my hard work pay off."
Milan heads to next week's state tournament in Davenport (her first state appearance) with a world of confidence. Her goal isn't to set another personal best, it's to play her best.
"I want two really solid rounds together," Milan said. "I can't shoot to a number. You never want to shoot for a specific number before you play."