Samantha Barker was urged by her dad and Highlands Ranch golf coach, James, to give a new putter a try during a recent practice session at Family Sports Center in Centennial.
She stroked a few putts with the new putter, but quickly retrieved her old one and went back to work refining her proficiency on the greens.
Barker, a Highlands Ranch senior, is one of the state's leading Class 5A female golfers who competed May 7 in the Class 5A Northern Regionals in Broomfield and hopes to be a contender in the state tournament that will be held May 20-21 in Grand Junction.
Hitting a golf ball a long way, straight down the fairway, hasn't been much of a problem for Barker. Putting, however, has at times been inconsistent.
“Sam is a great ball striker and great driver of the golf ball,” James Barker said. “She'll hit nine out of 10 fairways and she can hit it 250-260 yards. And she'll hit it within 10 feet with her irons probably 10 times a round, but then her putting ...
“Her putting has gotten better. For a few years it was eight to 10 three-putts a round. Now it's not as many three-putts but she's not at the point where she swishes a good percentage of those 10-footers for birdies. When she learns to do that, look out.”
Samantha admits she ignored putting until she realized that to flirt with par or sub-par rounds a golfer needs to be a decent putter.
“I definitely practiced more hitting,” Samantha said. “When I was little I would just hit the ball, pick it up and throw it in the hole. Putting wasn't my thing. I just worked a whole lot more on hitting the ball.
“I'm definitely going to have to practice on the short game and putting. That's where you score.”
Samantha, who is hoping to land a golf scholarship with her play this spring, changed her swing over the winter. She hit 100 to 200 balls a day to prepare for the spring season and she has been posting consistent scores in the mid-70s.
“This season has gone well,” Samantha said. “It's hard to go from an 80s player, shaving a few shots, to a 70s player, even though it's only a few shots. It takes a lot more work than you think. Now it's just getting as low as possible.
“One of the hardest things for me is I want to see how hard I can hit it, how far I can hit it. Most of the time when I'm playing I try to keep it simple. One practice swing and hit it.”
James Barker has watched his daughter's game get better and better.
“Sam has progressed nicely over the years,” he said. “She was shooting in the 100s two years ago. She has been pretty consistently in the 70s during the high school season. She has stretches in national events where she has been in the 70s. She has her battles in national events with tough courses, bad weather and real good competition and we don't always see the 70s, but she is getting there.
“We've just watched her scores go down and the consistency go up over the years. She's a good player, definitely in the top 10 in the state and maybe sneaking into the top five.”