Northeast High School golfer and three-time state champion Stephanie Connelly will transfer to the David Leadbetter Golf Academy in Bradenton, Fla., in January, a move that's at once a privilege and a sacrifice.
There's the glamorous: As a student at the school, a wing of IMG Academies, Connelly will benefit from gorgeous facilities, world-class coaching and top-notch competition.
There's the glum: Instead of graduating with her classmates at Northeast, Connelly will say goodbye to her friends -- and parents -- five months early.
"There are definitely some things that will be hard about it," Connelly said. "But the opportunity was just way too good to pass up."
After winning her third state 4A/3A title last Thursday by shooting two rounds of even-par 72, Connelly, a senior, leaves Anne Arundel having accomplished much. She's won four county titles and three district championships. Recruited by many of the top college golf teams, she'll attend Ohio State on full scholarship next fall.
The David Leadbetter school, which has an alumni list that includes some of the world's best golfers, will allow Connelly to spend each morning improving her golf game and each afternoon taking a full class load so she can graduate from high school in June.
Connelly said she first considered the school when she visited a sports psychologist there this past summer. "I guess I just started thinking, 'Wow, there could be a lot of benefits to this,' " she said.
The program specializes in the mental aspects of golf -- tournament preparation, concentration t and positive thinking -- which is where Connelly thinks she needs the most work. She'll also have world-class coaches within shouting distance every morning, and she hopes to develop her short game.
The move should also improve her lifestyle.
Golf-related scheduling hassles have caused most of her headaches. She would routinely wake up early to work out, then race to school, go straight to the driving range after classes and then work out again. "It's been total madness," she said.
At the Florida school, Connelly will have a program structured to reduce the chaos she has faced balancing school and golf. Coaches and teachers work together to ensure a manageable workload.
"It just seems like the perfect situation for me," said Connelly, who will start classes Jan. 15. "This is one of those things that, if I go down there and put a lot into it, I could really go to the next level. I'm so excited about it."