To understand how far Mt. Hebron junior Josephine Jung has come, you have to first understand where she was just three short years ago.
As a freshman, who had literally just started playing golf, Jung came out her first season for the Vikings and averaged 11.4 points a match — the equivalent of just better than a double bogey a hole. At the county championship tournament that year, she finished with a total of 26 points — 23 behind champion and four-time Player of the Year Bryana Nguyen of Atholton.
Her natural athleticism was evident, but there was an enormous gap between her and Howard County's elite.
"I always played soccer growing up and golf was something I was just kind of trying out," Jung said. "I didn't really know what I was doing. It was more like I was just out there playing and having fun. But I do remember that as I actually started to practice, even though I still wasn't that good, I could see that I had some potential.
"I remember talking to my family after freshman year and deciding that I wanted to take golf more seriously and see how good I could get."
Fast forward to this fall and Jung has turned all that potential into results.
Countless hours of practice with her private coach George Bradford, who started working with Jung after that first high school season, set the foundation. Then an amped up tournament schedule last offseason, along with improved confidence that came with her experience, provided Jung all the tools she needed to announce herself this high school season as not only one of the county's best, but one of the best in the entire state.
She achieved career-highs in scoring average (23.1 points per match) and single-round score (28 points) during the regular season. Then she really turned things on in the postseason, picking up back-to-back breakthrough victories at the county and District V championship tournaments.
And for a little icing on the cake, she wrapped everything up with a tie for fourth at the state tournament after never previously even making the cut at the season-ending event.
It is because of that lengthy list of accomplishments that Jung has been named this fall's Howard County Times/Columbia Flier girls golf Player of the Year.
"It's really been kind of a neat ride watching Josephine grow to where she is today and how determined she was along the way to get to this point," Mt. Hebron coach Don Walters said. "She really, really works hard on her game and when you look at her consistent progression, that dedication is definitely paying off."
Jung says finding Bradford was what really helped take her to the next level, as the two spent several months in the early going building her swing from the ground up.
"I remember when we first started, my challenge to her was to give me a full year of really giving golf a shot. If she wasn't enjoying it after that, then she could go back to soccer and there would be no hard feelings," Bradford said. "But I knew once we got going, with her already having that competitive drive as an athlete, she was going to be hooked. And sure enough, she hasn't turned back."
Last year as a sophomore, Jung had already improved leaps and bounds.
Her scoring average had nearly doubled, up to 21.8 points a match during the regular season. She was 11 shots better at the county tournament (37 points) and she qualified for states for the first time with a round of 83 at districts.
In addition to working with Bradford, Jung also credited having great relationships with some of the county's top high school golfers — particularly all-county regular Rachel Lee of Marriotts Ridge — as something that really sped up her development.
"Rachel was so welcoming to me right from the beginning and we started playing a lot together. She was kind of like a role model for me … showing what was possible if I worked as hard as she did," Jung said.
Ironically enough, it was the graduation of Lee and Nguyen last spring that opened the door for Jung to take a turn in the spotlight this fall. With those two gone after four years of dominating every major postseason tournament, Jung took the opening and ran with it.
"It was like I finally felt like I had a chance to win," she said.
After a rather uneventful start to this season, Jung said the turning point came in a tri-match against Marriotts Ridge and Long Reach where she shot her first under-par high school round (28 points).
After that, it was almost as if the seal had been broken.
At the county tournament, she finished with a two-over-par score of 52 points to win by an unprecedented 10 shots. A couple weeks later, she kept the momentum going at the District V championships by outlasting Atholton's Amanda Petersen in a playoff for the victory.
While the winning streak stopped at states, Jung's tie for fourth (83, 77 — 160) still showcased herself in a class that had once seemed unfathomable to her.
"If you had asked me freshman year I would have never even imagined I could accomplish any of this, so I've definitely surprised myself," Jung said. "But it also goes to show what you can do if you work really hard at something."
And if everything stays on course, Jung's hard work will soon put her on the radar of Division I colleges.
"If she continues on this trajectory, I have no doubt she will get an opportunity to play at the next level," Bradford said. "But for now, I don't really want her to focus on the college decision or that process. She just needs to focus on her game and working hard. The way she's going, the colleges are going to find her."
Erica Caporaletti, Reservoir senior
Season highlights: Compiled a scoring average of 15.2 points a match during the regular season, including a season-high 23 points in a victory over Mt. Hebron. Finished sixth at the county championship tournament (30 points) and tied for sixth at the District V championships (88).
Jacqueline Cherry, Howard freshman
Season highlights: Was the leading scorer this fall for the undefeated Lions, averaging 21.4 points a match. Her best single-round score was 27 points (even par) in a victory over then-undefeated Wilde Lake. She placed fourth at the county championship tournament (37 points) and fifth at the District V tournament (85).
Lexie Hayward, River Hill senior
Season highlights: Finished the regular season with a scoring average of 14.6 points a match, including a season-high 20 points against Marriotts Ridge. Finished seventh at the county championship tournament (27 points) and tied for sixth at the District V tournament (88).
Katelyn McIlvain, Marriotts Ridge junior
Season highlights: Finished as the county's fourth-best scorer during the regular season, putting up an average of 17.1 points a match. She twice eclipsed 20 points in a match, including a season-high 21 in a season-ending tri-match against Glenelg and Atholton. Finished fifth at the county championship tournament (34 points) and eighth at the District V event (92).
Amanda Petersen, Atholton senior
Season highlights: Improved her scoring average for the fourth straight year, posting a career high 22.0 points a match this fall. Her season high came in the final match of the regular season, putting up 26 points in a tri-match against Marriotts Ridge and Glenelg. Placed second at the county championship tournament (42 points) and second at the District V tournament (75) as well, losing in a playoff to Josephine Jung.
Tyler Teachman, Wilde Lake junior
Season highlights: As the top player for the Wildecats, Teachman posted a scoring average of 16.9 points a match. Her season included a career-high 23 points in a victory over Oakland Mills. She was third at the county championship tournament (41 points) and tied for third at the District V championship (83). She then was one of only two Howard County girls to make the final day at states, finishing in 19th (87, 97 —184).