Former Northeast student and three-time state golf champion Stephanie Connelly graduated from the David Leadbetter Golf Academy in Bradenton, Fla., last month with a mixed outlook: She left with her game in a bit of a slump, but she also left with the skills to get out of it.
Though her scores have stagnated over the last few months, Connelly returned from Florida with a more efficient practice routine that she thinks will help her improve her scoring -- eventually. In three tournaments since her graduation, Connelly has yet to place in the top 10. But she will play in at least three more national junior tournaments before she leaves in September for Ohio State, where she will play golf on scholarship.
"It's been frustrating recently, because I feel like I'm playing well and I just haven't been scoring," Connelly said. "I know that I'm a better player than I was when I left for Florida. It won't be long before I find my rhythm."
At the Leadbetter Academy, a wing of IMG Academies, Connelly played golf every morning and went to school in the afternoons. On Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday, she practiced at the driving range and worked on her putting with senior golf instructor Tim Sheredy. On Thursday and Friday, she joined Sheredy to play nine holes. In total, she played golf for more than 20 hours each week during the four-month program.
Thanks to the constant instruction, Connelly said, her swing improved technically. She learned how to eat nutritiously and lift weights effectively. She also became a more efficient practicer, capable of maximizing a short workout.
"You can already tell that she picked up a lot of little things down there," said John Webster, Connelly's Maryland-based coach. "She is a little bit more intense now when she practices. When you're around golf that much -- and around that many other good players -- you're going to get better."
The question is, when will those improvements manifest themselves on the scorecard? Connelly's best tournament showing over the last three months was a seventh-place finish at the Scott Robertson Memorial Tournament in Roanoke, where she carded a 76, then a 73, then a 74.
Even those scores did not satisfy Connelly, who often shoots under par. More frustrating than the scores, though, was the way she attained them: She felt that she generally had played well. She couldn't figure out why her scores weren't lower.
"She wants to pinpoint one thing, but it's not always that easy," Webster said. "Sometimes you just have to be patient."
Said Connelly: "I feel like my skills have improved a lot, like everything's gotten better, and I just want to show it. I haven't been playing all that great, but it's because I haven't been putting everything together, even though it's all there for me."