Written by Matt Wixon
Wixon: Never-say-die attitude keeps Allen junior Maddie Szeryk on course as she aims for first 5A golf title
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A couple of errant drives or a bad stretch of holes can send a golfer’s round into a tailspin. But if Maddie Szeryk is struggling on the front nine, Allen coach Karen Gravley knows what to expect.
“She’ll grin and say, ‘I’ll get it back,’” Gravley said. “She knows that at any moment she can make a shot that can turn everything around.”
The Allen junior, who committed to Texas A&M in December, turned a lot of heads in her first two seasons of high school golf. As a freshman, she finished third in Class 5A, with a 36-hole total only three shots back of the leader. As a sophomore, she finished second, one stroke behind champion Sierra Sims of Austin Westlake.
As a junior?
“It’s going to be close,” Szeryk said.
It was very close earlier this month at the 5A Girls Invitational in Austin, which coaches call the state preview. At the 36-hole event played on the course where the 5A state tournament will be held April 29-30, Szeryk and Sims finished tied for first. Szeryk then beat Sims in a six-hole playoff.
The playoff would test anyone’s nerves, Szeryk has been playing golf for 10 years, and competitively for nearly that long. The 16-year-old knows how to roll with the emotional hills and valleys.
“You’ve just got to try to focus on every shot and not worry about the outcome,” she said. “If you’re thinking too far ahead or thinking about your score, you’re not going to be focused on that shot.”
Allen will be in sharp focus at the state tournament. Szeryk and fellow junior Jordy LaBarbera, who was seventh at the state preview, led the Eagles to their third golf title last season. The first two titles were won in 2005 and 2006, when Gravley helped develop players such as Kate Ackerson, who golfed for SMU, and Lindsay Cullen (Penn State).
Szeryk has already eclipsed their UIL results and has competed in the last three U.S. Girls Junior Championships. She practices for five to six hours per day, working especially on her wedge shots.
“In high school, the wedges are really important,” Szeryk said, “because that’s where you’re going to get your birdies.”
Gravley said Szeryk has a lot of the same qualities as former McKinney star Brittany Lang, who won the 5A championship in 2002 and was a three-time medalist at the state tournament. Lang, known for her consistency and confidence, now competes on the LPGA Tour.
Making it to the Tour is Szeryk’s goal, and Gravley said she has the hitting distance for it and the short game, too. When her putting is on, the coach said, “she can be deadly.”
She also has a poise on the course that serves her well now and could be a key ingredient to a professional golf career.
“She has a confidence in herself that you’d like to see in all athletes,” Gravley said.
Follow Matt Wixon on Twitter at @mattwixon.
April 10: District certification (UIL and TAPPS)
April 15-18: Regional tournaments (UIL and TAPPS)
April 29-30: UIL 4A-5A state tournament
April 29-30: TAPPS, SPC state tournaments
May 2-3: UIL 1A-3A state tournament
Boys teams to watch
4th at state tourney last year, 5A champ in 2011
Missed state last year, 2nd in 5A in 2011
State runner-up last year
TC Byron Nelson
4th in state last year
Boys individuals to watch
Signed with New Mexico
Signed with Auburn
Signed with Baylor
14th in 4A state tourney last year
4A state champion last year
Girls teams to watch
5th at 5A state preview event March 8-9
Won Forney Invitational on March 8
TC Byron Nelson
2nd at state tournament last year
Has won 4 straight TAPPS titles
Girls individuals to watch
4th at 5A state preview event March 8-9
Carr. New. Smith
4th in 4A last year, signed with UNT
7th at 5A state preview event March 8-9
TC Byron Nelson
4A state runner-up last year by 1 stroke
16th at 5A state tourney last year