Squalicum's Maddi Atwood-Knudson learned how impactful one's mentality can be.
The No. 1 girls' golfer for the Storm took to a new mindset before embarking on her junior year, one she saw pay dividends on the second day of the Class 2A Bi-District girls' golf tournament on Tuesday, May 20, at the Snohomish Golf and Country Club.
After shooting an opening-round 98, she decided on the second day of competition that she wouldn't keep track of her score until the end.
"I just kept a clear mind. I didn't want to try and focus too much on my score. Play my game and take a nice, easy swing," she said in a phone interview. "If I had a bad shot, I would stay calm."
When all was said and done, her score was a 93, her single best round of the year, ensuring her a spot in the Class 2A state girls' golf championships held on May 28-29 at The Classic Golf Club in Spanaway.
Even Atwood-Knudson didn't foresee her lowest score coming in arguably her most important round of golf of the year.
"Toward the back nine, I was slowing down. Didn't think I was going to get that good of a score," she said. "I was shocked."
It's been a process for the junior taking over the responsibility of being top golfer in the program. She's been paired alongside some of the better 2A girls' golfers in the state in Bellingham's Jenn Paul, who is a contender for the individual state title, and Lynden's Emily Ming, who will also be fighting for a top-10 finish at state.
She felt the pressure of shooting lower scores, keeping in mind how she would have to fair to give Squalicum a chance at team wins and individual medalist honors.
"I think that's what stressed me out toward the beginning of the season," she said, "and why my season started out pretty rough. Jenn with Bellingham playing her whole life, it was a little nerve racking, but it gave me a good challenge to play up to her level."
Chad Herman, the girls' golf coach for the Storm, watched as his junior struggled in finding her stroke. In those trying moments, though, he also saw someone worthy of holding down his No. 1 spot.
Her dedication to the game and willingness to put in the time on the range to recapture her previous form only reiterated the confidence he had in her.
"Last year she was a sophomore in the No. 2 position, and she didn't face a ton of adversity because there weren't some major expectations on her," he said in a phone interview. "She's her toughest critic. She's pretty tough on herself. That was kind of a big thing for her to understand she doesn't have to be the best all the time."
Her dedication didn't come without its rewards.
Atwood-Knudson fired a team-best 45 on April 7 at the North Bellingham Golf Course, and she followed that up with a solid round of 97 a week later at the same course, pairing with Courtney Flannery to lead the Storm to a team win.
And with state quickly approaching, Herman sees his top golfer posting the types of scores he believed she would, and at the best time of the year no less.
Reach Alex Bigelow at firstname.lastname@example.org or call 360-715-2238. Follow @bhamsports on Twitter for other Whatcom County sports updates.
CLASS 2A STATE GIRLS' GOLF CHAMPIONSHIPS
When: Wednesday, May 28-Thursday, May 29
Where: The Classic Golf Club in Spanaway