Practice of preparation keeps her right on course; Golf: North Carroll junior Carlie Gordon finished second in the MPSSAA state tournament, and she is committed to do what it takes to keep on improving.


You want determination? Follow the practice routine of North Carroll golfer Carlie Gordon.

The day before the Monday start of the Maryland Public Schools Scholastic Athletic Association state golf tournament, Gordon practiced driving hundreds of range balls off a simulated tee box in her back yard in Hampstead.

For two hours. After sunset. In the dark.

"I said to her, 'Carlie, it's a little dark out there to be practicing, isn't it?' " recalled her father, Larry Gordon. "She said, 'I didn't even notice it was dark.' . . . There's a different kind of animal living with us in the house."

That commitment to improvement paid off as Carlie Gordon placed second among 13 girls with an 82-83 for a two-day total of 165 at the University of Maryland Golf Course in College Park. She finished six strokes behind Arundel High sophomore Callie Vance.

For Gordon, it was the second time in three years that she had placed second at the state tournament. She was second as a freshman, and she finished fourth last year.

The near-championship performances have left the junior with a hunger for the top prize.

"That would be nice," Gordon said in her modest manner.

Gordon began playing golf when she was 8. Larry Gordon, a physical education teacher and an avid golfer with a 3 handicap, would take his only daughter to Little Creek, a par-3 golf course in southern Pennsylvania.

On her first hole, Carlie Gordon smacked a pink ball onto the green 110 yards away.

"At the time, I didn't know that it was that great of an accomplishment," she recalled. "I just tried to hit the ball."

Said her father: "When she started shooting a bogey for the entire course, I took her to the big course."

Her mother, Pat Gordon, a medical assistant, said her husband didn't shove a golf club into their daughter's hand like Tiger Woods, but said she knew Larry Gordon would teach Carlie as much as he taught her older brother, Craig.

"There was always one [a golf club] around the house," she joked. "It was there to be grabbed."

Carlie Gordon also plays basketball and jumps rope to stay in shape, but said that golf is her true passion.

"It's such a mental game," she said. "Unlike any other sport, you can't get taken out if you're having a bad round. You have to keep going and suck it up."

That attitude shows in Gordon's facial expressions, which, whether she slices a drive or nails a 25-foot putt, never change.

Her ability to rein in her emotions has impressed those who have watched her play.

"She's very mature," said Westminster golf coach Jeff Ibex. "She's very composed, and it's a joy to watch her play."

North Carroll golf coach Craig Walker said he believes Gordon's composure stems from her parents, who took Tuesday off to monitor their daughter's progress in the final round.

"You don't see that type of maturity in many high school-aged young adults," he said. "I think that's a direct correlation with her family and how close they are and how they have raised her."

Larry Gordon said he and his wife have never had to push their daughter to practice her game.

"We leave it up to her," he said. "And for the last month, she has been a totally different person."

The workouts could help Carlie Gordon achieve two goals: winning a state title and getting a scholarship offer to play at a university somewhere in the South.

After the round's 12th hole at the state tournament, Gordon was just two strokes behind Vance. But Vance parred the next six holes, and Gordon drifted back.

But Gordon refused to let a second-place finish prevent her from her dreams.

"That makes me work harder," Gordon said. "Maybe I'll hit a few more balls."

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