Saturday, May 26, 2018

State golf: CCC's Paschal sharpens her mental game

As the bogeys piled up in last week's Class A region tournament at East Lake Woodlands, Emma Paschal stopped and took a deep breath.

The Clearwater Central Catholic junior was already 3 over after her first three holes, and if she didn't get things back on track she would surely fail to qualify for the state tournament.

Paschal turned the region tournament into a 15-hole event. She forgot about the first three holes and thought only of fairways and greens.

"From there it was all about limiting my shots," she said. "I'm happy with how it ended. I made like 12 or 13 pars in a row. I didn't make any birdies, but I just wanted to keep things as low as I could."

Paschal shot 4-over 76 and was just 1 over after her bad start. Her score beat Alison Armstrong of Cambridge Christian by five shots for the individual championship.

And for the second straight season, she qualified for the state tournament. Last season, Paschal was tied for 39th after rounds of 81 and 84 at the Mission Inn Resort and Club in Howey-in-the-Hills.

This time around she will play Harbor Hills Country Club in Lady Lake. Paschal has a 9:45 a.m. tee time today, and after Monday's practice round it will only be her second time on the course.

Paschal said things will be different in a lot of ways this year.

"For one thing, last year it was freezing cold," she said. "We all had to play in it, so it's not an excuse, but the weather won't be a factor this year.

"And I've also taught myself not to freak out over a bad shot. It's just another tournament. I've played in many big tournaments and I'm going to play in a lot more. Whatever I do, I'm just going to move forward."

Not only has Paschal's mental approach gotten stronger, but so has her overall game. She said she is hitting the ball straighter than in the past, and her short game has improved.

Her low score this season was 69 at Seminole Lake Country Club. After wins at the district and region tournament, she is hoping the momentum continues.

"I've become better from 150 yards and in," Paschal said. "I'm thinking about the game better. I'm not only thinking about hitting the green, but where to put the ball on the green. Do I need to be above the hole or below the hole? I think I'm a smarter player."

Paschal will be the only female golfer representing Pinellas County in this week's Class A and 2A tournaments. Shorecrest's Karim Oliver and Greyson Porter are the only boys representatives this week.

With an always tough field in Class A, Paschal knows this is not an easy tournament to win. She said she won't be thinking about a trophy, just her own game.

"I can't control what other golfers do," Paschal said. "I just want to shoot the best score that I can. I want to know that I played the best I could. If it's good enough, great. But I want to leave knowing I played the best I could."

Rodney Page can be reached at [email protected] or on Twitter @RodneyHomeTeam.