Paul Wills isn't superstitious. The Arundel High junior doesn't put on his golf spikes in any particular order and his warm-up routine before a match can vary more than the colors in a pair of plaid golf pants.
"I don't go out there and wait for something to happen," said Wills, a favorite to claim low-medalist honors at the state golf tournament, which begins today and ends tomorrow at the University of Maryland Golf Course. "I go out there and try and make something happen."
And more often than not, he's successful.
Wills and his teammates already have secured Anne Arundel County's regular-season and tournament title, and if Arundel comes away a winner after two rounds in College Park, it will be the third straight year that the Wildcats have swept the county, district and state titles.
So, is Wills feeling the pressure or enjoying it? Arundel coach Carol Nutt says the latter is true.
"Paul enjoys the pressure and he's not going to walk away from anything," said Nutt, last year's Anne Arundel County Golf Coach of the Year. "He goes out to win and you don't worry about pressure when you want to win."
Wills, 5 feet 11 and 160 pounds, already has won three of the five regular-season matches, and his 7-over-par 78 at last week's District V tournament at Bear Creek Golf Course earned him low-medalist honors in that event.
At Tuesday's county public schools tournament at Eisenhower Golf Course, Wills shot a 4-over 75, holding off co-finalists Dave Orso of Severna Park and Adam Carstens of Annapolis, who both finished four strokes back.
"For a young man, Paul strikes the ball very well," said Nutt. "Like any golfer, every once in a while he gets in a rut, but he knows enough about the mechanics of a good golf swing to figure out what he's doing wrong and he normally corrects it on his own.
"Paul manages to stay on a pretty even keel and he has been since he was a freshman. He doesn't sway one way or another, whether he's playing poorly or playing great."
Wills might be able to get rid of an occasional glitch in his swing, but one thing he can't shake is the inevitable comparison with former teammate Gary Carpenter, who now is playing for East Carolina University.
"You don't give one person credit based on another," said Nutt. "Paul has been making his own way and his success has nothing to do with Gary Carpenter. His progress has been very subtle and I think that comes with maturing."
Wills, a 2-handicap golfer out of Glenn Dale Country Club in Prince George's County, believes the only way to shed the comparisons is to eclipse Carpenter's accomplishments. If he can do that, fine, but his main priority now is bringing another state-championship banner to the Gambrills school.
"I want to break some of Carpenter's records and prove that he wasn't really that good," Wills said, partly in jest. "With Gary leaving I knew I was going to be No. 1 this season and I knew I had to step up.
"We want to three-peat as state champs and some of us are already talking about four-peating, but we have to win this year first."