After competing at a high level in gymnastics throughout her childhood, Arundel senior Elyse Smidinger switched to golf when she was in the eighth grade.
To say she has been proven to be a quick study is an understatement.
On Oct. 25, Smidinger added to an already impressive resume when she cruised to her second straight individual girls state championship. In addition to her success at the high school level, Smidinger won the Maryland Junior Championships in 2009 and 2011 and was the runner-up in this year's Maryland Women's Amateur Championships.
Her career highlight to date came in August at the U.S. Women's Amateur Golf Championship in Rhode Island, when she was seeded 64th and upset No. 1 seed Jihee Kim of Korea to advance to the second round. Smidinger, who maintains a 4.1 grade-point average, is set to play at the University of Denver. She plans to study business and would like to play golf at the professional level.
What do you enjoy the most about golf?
Winning a tournament knowing that you've worked so hard and put so much effort into it — the feeling is like you're floating on air. Also, the first time you do something new in golf is excting. I remember the first time I spun the ball back on the green, I was so excited and thought it was the coolest thing in the world. The first time I made eagle, or like making a 60-foot putt — it's all those little moments. It doesn't happen every time, but it happens, and working hard makes them happen more often.
What is the strength of your game?
Probably driving accuracy. When I first started, I would always go to the range and I've always liked hitting golf balls — grip it and rip it!
What separated Denver from the other colleges you considered?
I visited a bunch of schools and Denver was just a really good fit for me with the coaches. Every time I talked to them, I always have a smile on my face. It's great. Just their overall program and their beliefs really goes well with what I believe in.
From a mental aspect, how do you rebound from a bad hole?
I just say, "OK, bad hole," but there's the next hole and it's another opportunity, so you stay positive and go from there. It's very critical. At the high school state tournament, if I made a bogey, I just told myself it was OK, it's just one hole and we're playing 36, so get a birdie to get it right back.
What's the best advice you've received?
I always go back to trying to be the best I can be and everything will fit into place after that. I always want to beat everybody else, but being the best I can be is what I know I can control.
What do you enjoy most about being a high school senior?
College is coming! (laughs) I'm looking forward to playing golf in college — it's exciting. [Getting done with classes every day at 10:30 a.m.] gives me more time to improve on my game. I also work, so that takes some of my time, but there's definitely more time to play golf and improve.
What's the best shot you've ever made?
It came at the U.S. Women's Amatuer — they actually showed the shot on TV and it was the first time I was ever on TV, so it was really cool. It was on [hole] No. 9, and I was in the middle of the fairway and I had a hybrid [club] and I hit it to around three feet. So whenever I take out the hybrid, I was always picture that shot, and it brings me more confidence.
When did your golf game turn the corner?
My dad always told me I had a lot of talent and I just needed to work hard to develop it. I remember the first local tour — the first year I really started picking it up — I shot 116 in my very first tournament and then the following year I played in another local event and shot an 88 and won the thing. I was like, "I'm getting pretty good at this sport!"