Unless you had a child playing on a school team last year, you may not have followed middle school sports throughout the Plateau. That being the case, you aren’t likely to have heard the names Anna Stiehler or Ryan Ubertino before.
Pictured below are Anna Stiehler and Ryan Ubertino honing their skills on the golf course.
These two upcoming freshmen tore it up last year on golf courses throughout the region and ended up tying for best overall individual scores after the last middle-school golf season. They’re often compared to golfers with far-more experience, and they don’t let those comparisons faze them or add pressure. They compete against themselves on a constant mission to improve their game.
Stiehler is an upcoming freshman at Highlands School and plays on the recently formed girls varsity golf team. Over the summer, she’s been working with a coach to iron out some of the wrinkles in her swing.
“Before visiting her [swing coach] the first time this year, my swing was flat and more of a baseball swing,” said Stiehler. “She gave me drills to work on correcting it and I ended up over correcting it. I’ve continued to practice finding a ‘happy medium’ so I will not be starting the high school season worrying about something as tedious as that.”
Ubertino, also an upcoming freshman at Highlands School, spent his summer focusing on his short game (putting and chipping) and alignment.
“My summer is going well,” he said. “Spending some time at the lake, working, and playing some golf. It’s going too fast!”
For both athletes, it can be difficult to balance golf with the rest of teenage life. Last year after school, Stiehler would race to the golf course to work on her swing, and then pack it up and head off to soccer practice.
“I just love the game,” said Stiehler. “It’s not just that it’s physically challenging. It’s a mental game and it takes years of practice, it’s not something you can pick up in a week, you have to work at it.”
Ubertino said you need to put time in on the course so you can maintain mental composure when the pressure is on.
“It you’re on a green shooting a par or birdie, you need calm down, breathe, and take a moment,” he said. “That takes practice.”
Ubertino added he is excited to play courses at Pinehurst Resort later this month and is ready to start the season at Highlands School.
“I think my game will be sharp heading into next season,” he said. “I am looking forward to competing and playing well.”
Ubertino’s father, Glenn, golfs with Ryan every chance he gets and is always impressed by Ryan’s skills on the course.
“I think a lot is natural ability, but to get to the next level you really have to commit to it, listen to your coaches, and be able to make the changes. It’s an enormous amount of work.”
Stiehler’s father, Brian, is the coach of Highlands girls golf team and said Anna has been around golf her entire life and knows full well the dedication it takes to play golf at the competitive level.
“It’s not like other sports,” said Brian. “You can show up to a practice for other sports and probably do okay if you’ve never played. But you have to play golf for a long time before you can perform well.”
He added that it’s a learning process and requires mental toughness.
“When you’re out on any course, you have to trust what you’re doing,” he said. “The psychological part of the game when you make a bad shot, you can’t let it ruin the rest of your game. You have to stay confident in your abilities.”
Anna said she is looking forward to the upcoming season.
“I feel like I have a lot of potential to succeed in the matches, as long as I can get my mind set,” she said. “I understand there are going to be some very good girls at these matches, but I am excited to see how I compare. I am also glad we will have an established girls team at Highlands this year.”
Editor’s Note: Like I said, this may be the first time you’ve heard of these two dedicated athletes, but it’s not likely the last.