A year ago, Cheyenne Mountain golfer Maxine Choi finished eighth at the state championships.
She wanted to better that result, so she came up with a simple plan to prepare for the 2018 Class 4A tournament: practice, practice, practice.
“I kinda did what I always do,” she said. “I just practiced harder — almost five hours a day.”
In the end, it paid off. Considerably.
Choi was cool, calm and collected as she drained an 8-foot putt to claim the individual title over Loveland’s Lauren Lehigh, the defending champion. Even after the senior sunk it, she didn’t realize she had won it all until teammates came up to congratulate her.
That finish was enough for Choi to be named as The Gazette Preps 2018 Girls’ Golf Peak Performer of the Year.
To get there wasn’t easy. On hole No. 9, she missed a 20-foot putt. Then, she missed another putt on the next hole. It was same, heart-aching scene on No. 12.
She was three strokes behind before No. 17.
In other words, her state championship finish was almost a complete surprise for Choi.
“I didn’t know I was a potential winner for state,” she said. “I thought I was down third place or something. And so, it was really exciting when my next shot was right next to the water. It was kind of nerve-wracking, because I thought my shot was going to roll into the water. When I putted it in, I was like, ‘Whoa, I made a birdie on the last hole.’”
It was her first birdie of the day.
“I was actually more excited about getting the birdie than winning state,” Choi said, laughing.
Before the tournament, she had proved she was a threat. She won individual titles at the regional and Pikes Peak Athletic Conference tournaments. Choi had won seven tournaments and placed second in three others this season.
But the state finish was all that attendees talked about, including Cheyenne Mountain coach John Carricato, mainly because she seemed so relaxed about the situation. After her win, he said, “That’s who she is. She doesn’t let good or bad affect her. It’s the next shot that matters. There’s so much poise and composure. We could all learn from her. If you stay in the moment like that, you’re going to make putts.”
After her junior season, she took steps to help her become a champion. She got two swing coaches. Before, she only had one. At the same time, she focused on her putting while practicing up to five hours a day during the offseason.
“With those two combinations, I started playing better,” she said.
And now, she has a state championship trophy to prove that.