CARTHAGE, Tx - Unlike most golfers who make a name for themselves, Carthage's Courtlynd Miller could be described as a 'late bloomer.'
A late starter is more like it.
Despite not taking up the sport until the summer before her freshman year in high school, Miller has worked hard to make up for lost time, with the results of her labor being evident from her scores.
Miller had steamrolled through her four years of high school, advancing to the Class 3A State Golf Tournament each year and then culminated her final year of high school on Friday by signing a national letter-of-intent to play golf at Division III Schreiner University in Kerrville.
The Carthage graduate said that many of her opponents took up the game as early as the age of four, but she finally got up the courage to start before she entered high school and she hasn't stopped trying to make up for lost time.
"I've always wanted to play since I was little, but I didn't get the courage up until that summer," Miller said at the signing. "We got lucky because my dad [Frank Miller] met Jack Ellett and he's really the one that has gotten me as far as I've come. He's taught me since my freshman year, working every day and through the summer to get me to this point."
Despite her late start in a sport that takes years to perfect, Miller accomplished the unexpected, advancing to the Class 3A state tournament her first year on the Lady Bulldog team.
"Making it to state was definitely not what I expected my freshman year," she admitted with a grin. "When I started hitting it, I was pushing the ball to the right as far as you could probably do it."
And with her good fortunes came experience playing against the state's best.
"You can't make up for a late start in golf because it takes years and years of practice," Miller stated. "I've seen that if I would have started earlier I would be at a much higher skill level if I would have started earlier. The people I play with have played since they were four and they shoot in the low 70s. But I keep practicing every day and there isn't much you can do than just keeping working at it."
Miller admits that the intrigue in golf is that it is an individual sport. She knows that she doesn't have to depend on teammates for her score and she's competing against the course, not an opponent, every time she plays.
The big obstacle when she plays is the same as all players face - her mind.
"The hardest thing is not to let your mind get in the way," Miller said when talking about improving her game. "This game is all in your mind. You can't think about it because it messes up your swing. You just have to have confidence in what you're doing and go out and do it."
Miller and the Carthage girls' golf team has continued to improve over the past four years as the Lady Dawgs have advanced to the state tournament each year. Miller placed 22nd overall at the tourney as a sophomore and helped CHS to a fifth-place finish after a seventh-place score her freshman year.
In 2011 Miller posted the 19th-best finish score in Austin as Carthage placed seventh.
This year Miller continued to come into her own and shot the best round of her career in the first round of the state tourney in May when she turned in a 77 to hold second place. She finished the tournament by posting an 86, but still tied for eighth place as she helped the Lady Dawgs to a sixth-place finish.
"The funny thing about that 77 score was that I wasn't even playing very well that day," she said. "I just make some lucky shots to help it. I was shocked when I saw the score."
Miller joins a Schreiner team that finished 14th at the 2010 D-III National Championship tourney and third in the American Southwest Conference Tournament this spring.
"There is so much more competition at the state level that it has really given me much more experience, which is something a lot of other people haven't had a chance to do by going to State," she said. "Going to State for four years has also helped me to build my skill level up.
"I really wanted to go to a good golf college. I had looked at Oklahoma and I was looking in Louisiana. But Schreiner came to (the state tournament) last year and the year before and they've been talking to me since last year.
"I finally went down there and visited and I love the school and I love the coaches. The team there is like a family; it's so welcoming to go there and I'm excited about what's ahead."
Miller doesn't worry about her late start because she knows there isn't anything she can do about it. She said she continues to work every day to be the best player she can be and is excited about taking her talents to the next level.
Miller plans on majoring in Pre-Med and is the daughter of Frank and Mari Miller.
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