Ashley Ridge sophomore Avery Smith admits that her golf game is still a work in progress. But the work is something she enjoys, so she feels the sky is the limit as she goes through high school.
Smith made a pretty big jump from her freshman to sophomore campaign, climbing about a dozen places in the individual standings in the Class AAAAA state tournament.
Smith finished fifth in the Class AAAAA state tournament at Holly Tree Country Club in Mauldin, posting a score of 151 in the 36-hole event. Her score was the top score of any golfer in the Charleston area in state competition, thus earning her the title of All-Lowcountry girls golfer of the year.
Two other local players were right behind Smith. Aubrey Merryman of Pinewood Prep shot 152 and finished as the runner-up in the SCISA state tournament. Academic Magnet’s Akiera Sanchez shot 152 to finish as the state runner-up in the Class AA state tournament.
“I love golf but it can be very frustrating,” Smith said. “It’s such a mental game, but you have to learn to fight through it. Go to the next shot and make the most of it.”
Smith showed a bit of mental toughness in the state tournament. After shooting 77 in her first round, she bounced back with a two-over 74 on the second day. Ashley Ridge coach Carter Wells sees Smith maturing and learning with every competition.
“I think she’s learning to fight,” the coach said. “She has the right mentality to really be good at this game. She’s a sophomore but she is our team leader. She brings out the best in other players because she works hard and she sets the example.”
Smith also won medalist honors in Region 7-AAAAA this season, and tied for second-place in the Class AAAAA Lower State qualifier.
Smith says she has been golfing since she could walk. Her grandfather worked at a golf course and she began tagging along with her dad.
“I think I was two years old when my dad put a club in my hand,” she said. “When I was younger, I would tend to lose focus and just end up playing in the sand traps. As I got older, I started to take it more seriously and now I can’t imagine life without golf.”
Smith says her focus in terms of improvement will be to improve her short game, putting and chipping.
“I came to realize how important that part of the game is and I’ve spent a lot of hours trying to improve,” she said.
When not playing high school golf, Smith participates on the Peggy Kirk Bell girls tour, a highly competitive and somewhat exclusive tour. She feels the competition is helping her improve her play and grow mentally. The hope is to someday earn a college opportunity.
“That’s absolutely my dream,” she said. “I’m really focused on putting in the work to improve everyday. Hopefully I will get that opportunity.”
All-Lowcountry Girls Golf
Avery Smith, Ashley Ridge
Shot 151 at Class AAAAA state tournament; tied for 5th overall
Aubrey Merryman, Pinewood Prep
Has signed with North Greenville; state runner-up at SCISA state tournament with score of 152; medalist in every regular season tournament this season
Akiera Sanchez, Academic Magnet
State runner-up in Class AA state tournament with score of 152
Grace Lindsey, Wando
Shot 154 at Class AAAAA state tournament; tied for 11th-place overall
Marlie Duarte, Fort Dorchester
Shot 165 at Class AAAAA state tournament; placed 21st overall
Jackie Freiber, Oceanside Collegiate
Third at Class AA state tournament with score of 165)
Oceanside Collegiate: Simi Patel, Lang Ives. Academic Magnet: Courtney Hall, Grace Griffin, Maryn Tombs; Porter-Gaud: Catherine Hagood, Lila Wilbourne, Lilly Kate Rowley, Lilley Sullivan. Palmetto Christian: Sarah Anne Horne, Sarah Hoffman. Northwood Academy: Morgan Sanders, Kiertsen Cruse. Pinewood Prep: Kathryn White. Wando: Ava Kaplan, Alice Li; Ashley Ridge: Annabel Carman, Sofia Vilarose; Stratford: Faith Owens. Berkeley: Trista Stanley.
Coaches of the Year: Rocky Catalano, Oceanside Collegiate (2nd in Class AA); Ken Hyde, Porter-Gaud (2nd in SCISA).