Stephanie Connelly needed to shoot a 102 on Tuesday to qualify for the state tournament, so she couldn't get too worked up about it.
The last time Connelly shot over 100, she was a 4-foot-something 11-year-old. On Tuesday, the Northeast senior putted poorly and played, by her estimation, "so unbelievably bad." She then hobbled into the clubhouse with a 74 -- sneaking under the cut by 28 strokes.
Repetition makes routine, so winning has become downright commonplace for Connelly. She's won the Anne Arundel County title four years running; she's placed first in District 5 three times, including Tuesday; she's won two state championships.
The challenge of high school golf boils down to one tournament for Connelly: the state championship. It's the one event that's still exciting because it's the one event where others are capable of beating her.
"I guess I'm kind of used to doing this well, so it's not really as thrilling," said Connelly, who will play golf at Ohio State next year. "I just take it as something that's fun, kind of relaxing."
No other girl came within five strokes of Connelly at Eisenhower Golf Course on Tuesday. Christine Flack and Kelly Lynch of Severna Park were the closest, shooting an 80 and 81, respectively. Broadneck's Josh Peck shot a 76, the best score of any boy.
After his round, Centennial's Christopher Wellde, apparently unfamiliar with the Connelly mystique, looked at the scoreboard and said, to nobody in particular, "Wow! Some girl named Connelly shot a 74."
Connelly's reaction to her round was a little bit different: "That's the worst I've played," she said, "in a really long time."
During the county tournament at Eisenhower a week earlier, Connelly shot an even-par 71 and still walked away unimpressed. After all, she'd shot even par at Eisenhower as a freshman. "I expect a little better," Connelly said then. "I hold myself to a different standard."
For most high schoolers -- even those who play at a top level -- golf is hobby. For Connelly, it's a lifestyle. A year-round, nationally ranked junior, she spends her days buried in golf.
It's up at 4 a.m. and over to the gym for an hour-long cardio workout. Five hours of school. Two afternoon hours at the driving range. One more hour on the putting green. One hour at the weight room. Finally, home.
"It's pretty all-consuming," Connelly said. "But I like it that way. It takes a lot of work to stay at this level."
"Watching her on the course is pretty unbelievable," said Severna Park's Mitch Van Zandt. "The thing is, you'll think she's not playing well, that she's hitting it all over the place, and then her score is like even par."
Typically, Connelly will go into the state championship as the favorite next week. She finished second last year to Great Mills senior Chrissy Gonzalez, a result that sticks out as the only disappointment -- the only meaningful defeat -- of her scholastic career.
"That last state championship, that's pretty important to me," Connelly said. "I want to go out on top."
So does Van Zandt, who thinks Severna Park will make a serious run at the team title. Severna Park dominated the county meet and tied with Broadneck at the district tournament. Van Zandt and Lynch are proven golfers who consistently shoot under 80. Brendan O'Brien, a senior, won the boys' county title.
"We have so many weapons," O'Brien said. "This team has a real chance to make a run. We might not have one person who will carry us, but we have a lot of people capable of shooting a low number. We know our goal. We want that championship."