Athlete of Week: Spencer aims for top of her game

cfgolf-spenceraowSami Spencer has been playing golf for more than a decade, which might not seem very long until you consider she is only 16. After picking up the clubs for the first time at 6, the Carolina Forest junior is armed with experience entering next week’s Class 5A state golf tournament.

“Having played for 10 years has been a big help to my game,” said Spencer, who was voted the Mammy’s Kitchen Athlete of the Week award following a career-best round of 76. “I’ve learned so many different swings and I’m finally getting comfortable with one. I’m hoping all the experience pays off.”

There’s no question about Spencer’s talent for the game, but she can attest to the old golf adage about the biggest challenge in the sport being the space between the ears. Spencer feels she is playing well enough to make a strong showing with the Lady Panthers at the state tourney, as long as her mental game can match the physical.

“Mentally, I get mad at myself on the course,” Spencer admitted. “If I hit a double or triple bogey, I get mad even though I know I shouldn’t. Some people don’t show it or just laugh it off, but I can’t because I know I’m better than that. That’s something I’ve got to work on.”

Unfortunately for Spencer, she hasn’t had much time to work on her game, thanks to Hurricane Matthew. With school closed and no team practices, and very few courses open to play on her own, Spencer couldn’t squeeze in much practice time before shooting 85 in Monday’s Class 5A Lower State tournament, which had to be relocated from Hilton Head Island to Harstville.

“Our electricity was out for a couple of days and I couldn’t go to my swing coach because the facility was flooded and trees were down,” said Spencer, who also competes on the SCJGA and (ironically) Hurricane Golf Tour. “I wasn’t able to practice much but did get out the day before the tournament. I felt rusty, almost like I was starting all over again.”

Spencer, a pre-med student at the Academy of Arts, Science and Technology, plans to get in a few practice rounds this week while also trying to keep up her grades in hopes of earning a golf scholarship to the College of Charleston. Despite the difficulties of the storm, school and a sometimes-frustrating golf game, she plans to bring her A-game and right mindset to next week’s state tourney.

“I feel very confident in myself knowing that I’m capable of shooting 76 and lower,” she said. “I’m going to go with the right mindset of ‘I’ve got this. I’m going to do well today. Nothing is going to let me down, even if I shoot 80.’ I’m do my best.”

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