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BOWLING GREEN Caroline Powers started swinging golf clubs when she was 3.
Fourteen years later she swings them like only a handful of high school girls across the state.
The Bowling Green senior, who finished third at the Division I girls state tournament a year ago, is a bona fide frontrunner to win this year s championship. A four-year performer on the boys team, Powers entered her final high school season with a goal of winning a state title.
She will attempt to keep that dream alive when she competes in the Division I district tournament today at Heather Downs Golf Club. The top two teams and the top two individuals not on a qualifying team will earn a berth to the state tournament Oct. 17-18 on Ohio State University s Gray Course.
The defending district champion said her experience not qualifying for the state tournament as a sophomore has her cautious, yet, optimistic. And she recognizes the significance of avoiding any uncharacteristic slip-ups a week before the state tournament.
I just have to take it one day at a time, Powers said. I think my sophomore year I got a little ahead of myself.
As a freshman she earned a spot on the Bobcats boys team. She held her own during team play that season and finished the year by competing in the girls state tournament where she placed eighth overall. However, her swift climb up the success ladder admittedly may have affected her focus and approach to playing in the district competition the next season.
BG coach Chris Dill is confident Powers will respond the right way this time knowing what is at stake.
If she has to play well at the district tournament then that has to be the first step to get to state, Dill said.
Powers impressive resume includes winning medal honors at sectionals four straight years and medal honors at districts as a freshman and junior. BG does not have a girls team but that hasn t denied her from being a key contributor in team play. She has been the No. 2 golfer on the boys team the past two seasons and helped BG win the Northern Lakes League championship a year ago.
She is averaging a score of 38.5 for nine holes this season.
She hits the ball further and she s a little more accurate this year, Dill said. But she was good when she was a freshman.
Playing alongside and against boys for most of her career has been something she has always welcomed. Growing up playing golf with family members indoctrinated her to competing against all comers.
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Powers believes playing alongside the boys forced her to raise her game to a greater level. She played from the same tees as the boys, which oftentimes put her at a disadvantage when it came to driving distance. It forced her to attempt shots that otherwise she may not have attempted had she played solely against girls.
Powers proved she belonged on the same course and in the same competitions as her male teammates and has garnered scholarship offers from a number of colleges. She plans to continue her golf career at Michigan State.
I think being on the boys team has helped me because playing on the longer tees is a constant challenge and it makes you have to get better, Powers said. And my teammates have all been nice to me so it s been good.
Dill said Powers has continually shown improvement. Perhaps her most significant attribute is she plays with the right frame of mind.
She s mentally tough, the BG coach said. Not much really bothers her. When she hits a bad shot it doesn t bother her and you can never tell by her expression whether she s having a good day or bad day when she s on the course. She doesn t show much emotion and she just keeps plugging away.
Powers teammate, Tim Brandon, a BG junior, also believes her greatest strength is her mental approach on the course.
She has a really good mental picture for the game, said Brandon, the son of Bowling Green State University football coach Gregg Brandon. She makes a lot of putts and hits the ball a lot further than you think a girl could hit it. She was made to be a golfer.
John Rich, a junior, credits his teammate for her dedication and commitment to the sport.
She works really hard, Rich said. She s out here practicing all the time. She beats me all the time. I ve never beaten her.
Powers has put in plenty of time and effort to get to this point in her career. She practices year-round and spends some time on a golf course almost every day during the summer months.
A three-year track letter winner, Powers plans to bypass running hurdles in the spring for the first time to spend more time honing her golf skills. She wants to compete in more women s open tournaments during the spring.
However, for now Powers is focusing on the final two tournaments of her high school career.
There are a lot of good girls who play at state and it s a little more intense atmosphere because the stakes are higher, Powers said. But really, it s just another tournament and you have to just go out and play. It s all about keeping the right frame of mind.