Prep girls golf: Mental composure makes difference for Elliott

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It started with making sure her first drive found the fairway.

E.J. Elliott, a four-year varsity player, shook out her long arms and grabbed her 5-iron. She wanted to finish her last tournament for Park City on a high note. She set and paused before starting her round at Schneiter's Riverside Golf Course.

She was featured in the last group to go out, so the crowds had thinned, which left coaches and friends watching her prepare to tee off. She focused on not chopping or chunking her shot, breathed out and fired her first shot of the tournament.

The ball landed 160 yards out, a little to the left but good enough for Elliott to make par.

"After the first shot, after you get past the formality of the day, it's just another round of golf," she said. "I wanted to make sure that I played the course, not the other way around."

Elliott, who finished the Class 3A state tournament tied for 11th with a final score of 83, was pleased not just with how the season shaped up for Park City, but with learning to appreciate what she had learned on the links. It started with strengthening her mental game by focusing on the good shots and forgetting the bad ones.

"It took a lot of tournament play to be able to step back and not burden myself with criticism," she said. "Even if you hit a 100 and are feeling awful, you have to learn to get past it. Golf is always a long battle."

Park City coach George Murphy was impressed with Elliott's calmness on the course. She fought through adversity and maintained her composure. Murphy said Elliott is a natural leader who motivated the team to play outside practice and worked to help improve all of their games.

"She's been our MVP for the last two seasons," Murphy said. "She works as hard in the classroom as she does on the course. She is a great role model for the other students."

Elliott plans to attend the University of Virginia next year and try out for the golf team. She credits the skills learned in golf and the work ethic built through countless rounds with giving her the confidence to attempt new things. Working through adversity and understanding her limitations have made her successful.

"I love the strategy and pace of the game," Elliott said. "Just because you can hit it 300 yards doesn't mean anything if it lands in the trees."