Summar Roachell of Conway, Ark., had high hopes going into her final Under Armour®/ Hunter Mahan Championship. Granted, the outcome of the tournament didn’t have any immediate impact on her future. The 17-year-old golf sensation had already signed with her college of choice: University of Arkansas, and had a handful of AJGA wins under her belt. But twice she had come close to winning the Under Armour®/Hunter Mahan Championship and come up short, the second time in a playoff.
We talked before the tournament for several minutes, chatting about a little of everything including her experience with the AJGA, her first red card, her college aspirations, and her love for the game she has played since the age of five.
She was like so many juniors I have been pleasantly surprised in meeting this spring: optimistic, excited for the future and eager to talk about golf. What’s more, it was clear just how bad this high school senior —in her final season with the AJGA— wanted to finally win the elusive Under Armour ®/Hunter Mahan Championship.
“I came in second the past two years, lost in a playoff last year,” she said before the tournament. “I’d really like to get that win, third times a charm, I guess we’ll see if that works. It’s a great field.”
At the end of our chat I asked her if there was a lot of pressure to do well in her final appearance at an event she had come so close to winning, twice.
It was quite the opposite, she explained.
“You don’t want your last tournament to be like oh man I didn’t play as well as I could have,” she said. “I don’t want to put to much pressure on myself”
Even so, her desire to do well was clear. In the first round, she shot an even-par 72, placing her just one stroke behind the first round leader, Sierra Sims. She was within striking distance of the player she’d lost to in a playoff the year before.
But things didn’t go her way on Sunday. She had trouble on the first few holes, and shot 9-over-par through the front nine. I was following some of the leader groups that day and ran into Summar’s group early on the back nine. I knew by this time that Summar had a difficult first nine holes, so when I waved to her group on the twelfth hole and politely asked Summar how the round was going, I did not expect a forthcoming response. I knew the disappointment she must feel with being out of contention of the leaderboard. But if there was any frustration behind her voice, it wasn’t noticeable.
“Not good,” she said matter-of-factly, shrugging her shoulders. “I was 7-over-par through the first four holes.”
Knowing the difficulty that an elite golfer must have in saying this on a final round, I tried to be sympathetic, but she continued, matter-of-factly.
“It happens, it’s just golf,” she said, smiling, as she walked down the fairway.
In the last month, even after watching some of the best, most consistent junior golf I have seen, that moment still stands out to me as one of the most impressive. Amidst so much expectation and desire to do well in a tournament that she had come painfully close to winning, Summar dealt with that disappointment with a professionalism that few professional golfers seem to exhibit. That maturity reminded me of something she said during our chat a few days before.
I had asked her a question I often wonder about, whether elite junior golfers lose any enjoyment of the sport from the stress of high-level competition at such a young age.
Given the poise that I had just witnessed in this college-bound junior golfer, her response could not have seemed more appropriate.
“I love that competition that you get day in day out, when I was younger I had just as much fun as I do now,” Summar had said before the tournament.
Summar shot a 1-over on the back nine Sunday, placing her in the top 15 in the tournament. She admitted it was a tough final Under Armour®/ Hunter Mahan Championship, but yet again she remained positive; she knows that this fall, she’ll be headed to University of Ark. to play the game she loves. In the meantime, she has one more AJGA event left to play, at the KPMG Stacy Lewis Junior Open in Rogers, Arkansas this June.
For me, the month of April has been amazing start to the spring season. And it’s the passion and attitude of juniors like Summar that make me appreciate being a part of the AJGA.
“Everything happens for a reason and I just try to take from that and I learned a lot from that round. You learn a lot from your bad rounds probably more than your good rounds,” said Roachell after the tournament. “I’ll still have a lot of golf left to play and a lot of tournaments let to play in.”