Highlands School junior Anna Stiehler teed off at Longleaf Golf Club in Pinehurst this morning to begin the first round of the NCHSAA 1A/2A State Girls Golf Championship.
Stiehler is the sole member of the Highlands girls varsity golf team and has been on a roll all season winning medalist honors (first place) time and time again and recently qualified for the State Championship by shooting an 81 and earning 7th place at the NCHSAA Women’s Golf Regionals at the Country Club of Salisbury on Oct. 18.
The State Championship is a 36-hole event that takes place today and tomorrow. Players had the opportunity to shoot a practice round on Sunday, so it won’t be Stiehler’s first look at the course.
Stiehler said she’s playing well this season and has improved her shooting consistency maintaining a 9-hole average in the 30s. Some of the courses she has competed at include Highlands Country Club (HCC), Sky Valley, Mill Creek, Sequoia National, and most recently CC of Salisbury.
One of the many highlights of the season include when Stiehler beat Rabun Gap by shooting a 39 at HCC. She said Rabun Gap’s top two golfers are sisters from Barbados who are incredible golfers and have become friends of Stiehler’s over the years of competition.
Stiehler said one of the things that helped her take first place was shooting consistently with irons throughout the day, which is something she has been working on.
Shortly after defeating Rabun Gap, Stiehler once again played at HCC and faced off against Smoky Mountain shooting a 43. This time her consistency was not the problem, but her mental toughness.
“At my 43-score match against Smoky Mountain, I think my attitude is what I needed to work on most,” said Stiehler. “I had some very good holes including a birdie on the hardest hole on the front 9, but after one bad hole, my mood switched. I feel like the mental side of golf can be harder than the actual shots you are playing. I’ve worked on maintaining my composure in bad situations, and I feel I have gotten a lot better about it and moving on. Something important I always try to remember is that you can’t let a previous shot or hole bother you, you can’t go back and change anything.”
Stiehler’s coach is her father, Brian, who said Anna continues to improve her scores through practice and working with HCC Golf Pro Teeter Smith. Brian said Smith’s work with Anna has been a key piece of her development and she continues to gain confidence in her play.
“I’m so proud of her commitment to the game,” said Brian. “Golf is so much different than all other sports in that it requires an incredible amount of patience. In order to continue to improve, one has to develop of level of passion for the game that keeps you coming back. It takes years of practice to get to the point where Anna is now. When I first introduced her to the game after she learned to walk, I never imagined it would stick with her like it has.”
CC of Salisbury was built in 1920 by Architect Donald Ross, the same architect who designed HCC’s course, which is where Anna first learned to play golf with her father and fell in love with the game.
“Highlands Country Club would be considered my home course, and I feel I do have an advantage when playing there,” said Anna. “Growing up at HCC, I have learned the ins and outs of the course such as where to hit the ball for the best outcome, the way holes slope, and how the greens roll. Putting seems to be one of the biggest challenges for other players who have never been to Highlands Country Club. The greens are kept rolling fast, which can be very difficult to adapt to.”
Stiehler added that she could not have achieved what she has on the golf course without the support of her parents and guidance from Smith.
“I want to say thank you to both of my parents for everything they do for me, I don’t think I would be playing at the level I am without either of them,” said Anna. “And a thank you to Mr. Smith, who works with me on my swing. He has helped me with so many changes, and it has greatly improved my game.”
Brian said he is proud of Anna’s improvement and performance, but he’s just glad she enjoys the game.
“Her scores are excellent, usually a couple over par,” he said. “She will continue to have success, but seeing her having fun playing a game she can play a lifetime is what really makes me happy.”