Even Brent Martin concedes other local golfers have a point when they joke with him. "Shouldn't you have graduated by now?" they ask.

"Yeah, I know it seems that way," Martin said with a laugh last week as he reflected on his accomplished four-year varsity career, which will end this week at the Maryland State Tournament at the University of Maryland Golf Course.

It sure seems like the 17-year-old Martin (yep, his driver's license says his birth date was July 14, 1987) has been golfing for La Plata forever. But that's only because he has been one of Southern Maryland's elite high school players ever since he picked up the game four years ago.

Martin has done a little of everything for the Warriors. He played at the state tournament as a sophomore in 2002, won the SMAC title the next year and won the Charles County championship three weeks ago after shooting the best round of his life.

But the state tournament has been an albatross for Martin. After shooting an 81 in chilly, rainy weather in his first trip there as a sophomore, Martin struggled again last year, posting the same score.

"Until now, I've won just about everything I could," Martin said, "but there's one thing -- states -- that I haven't won."

For some reason, Martin said, his worst round always has come at the worst time. This year, however, he's convinced that won't be the case. That's because he's already had his worst round.

Martin went out to defend his SMAC title at White Plains Golf Club on Oct. 14 but shot a 10-over 80, the first time he hadn't broken 80 since -- that's right -- last year's state tournament.

"I just took [the tournament] for granted, and it bit me in the butt," he said. "I've never been one to say that I'm better than anyone, but [thinking that] was the worst thing I ever did."

It might turn out to be the best.

"I think for him, it's been motivation not to let it happen, but it's not something he dwells on or thinks about," La Plata Coach Mike Meiser said. "In all honesty, when he had that bad round, he felt relieved. I kind of hope and think that it's out of the way."

Martin's senior year has been a lot more stressful than he envisioned. This year, as La Plata's only senior, he added the role of mentor to his resume, helping the younger Warriors, including freshmen Cody Burch and Taylor Fuqua. Martin said he felt such a need to lead his teammates that he put too much pressure on himself and shot a 39 in La Plata's first match of the season.

Later in the season, Martin finished second when he double-bogeyed the 18th hole in a meet against Northern, La Plata's first SMAC loss since Martin's sophomore year.

"I was taking it too seriously," Martin said. "I wanted to be better than everyone, and I thought I was already [falling] behind. That's not who I am."

Martin would have rolled his eyes if he ever thought four years ago that he would become so critical of his game. Golf, after all, was just a hobby compared with his first love, drag racing. In fact, after the state tournament ends, he plans to head down to Dinwiddie, Va., for a race next weekend.

Once he regained the relaxed attitude that made him first enjoy golf, Martin's game began to flourish.

"I'm excited because I know what I can do, not what I have to do," he said.

It was apparent to teammate Daniel Barnas, who added, "He's handling things pretty well because everybody knows what he's capable of."

In the meantime, Martin is talking with Elon and Stetson about a college golf scholarship, the furthest thing from his mind when he was a La Plata freshman.

"It's weird because when I first started playing golf in high school, I didn't think I could do anything with it, much less get a golf scholarship," he said.

And when that happens, Martin will finally be done with high school golf.

"Until now, I've won just about everything I could, but there's one thing -- states -- that I haven't won," La Plata's Brent Martin said.