It dawned on Michelle Romano before her senior year that golf just might be her bag.
Romano, who just graduated from Rock Canyon, was the medalist in the Northern Regional this spring and then went on to win the Class 5A State High School Girls individual championship on the first playoff hole over Arapahoe's Hannah Wood.
She has also taken top honors as Colorado Community Media Female Golfer of the Year.
“I would definitely call myself an underdog,” said Romano. “Once I decided this is what I want to do, (I said) I have one year left and I might as well put in all my effort. I put in as much time as I possibly could to try to go out there and win.
“When regional came around it gave me a little bit of confidence that I do deserve to be at the state tournament and I do have a chance of winning. I did feel I had as much talent as everybody else. Just getting it through my head that I did deserve to be at state and I did deserve to win was what that was probably keeping me from playing better in the past.”
Romano, bound for the University of Colorado-Colorado Springs to play golf, fashioned an even-par 71 to win the Northern Regional at Highland Meadows April 28 but still didn't draw much attention as a possible favorite heading into the state tournament May 19-20 at Littleton's Raccoon Creek.
She faltered a bit in the final three holes during the final round but still tied Wood for first with a 153 two-round total after rounds of 78 and 75. Romano then shot a par on the first playoff hole, giving her the state championship.
“I started playing golf my freshman year in high school and never thought I would be here,” Romano said while accepting congratulations on her state tourney win. “It hasn't exactly sunk in but winning the tournament meant that I put in the best effort that I could and it paid off. At state last year when I tied for seventh, it was a big deal and gave me hope that I could possibly come back this year and give everyone a run for their money.”
Romano helped Rock Canyon finish second in the team standings and her performance didn't surprise coach Dave Vahling one bit.
“She plays but doesn't play a whole lot like Hannah Wood or (Cherry Creek's) Calli Ringsby,” explained Vahling. “She plays in tournaments but really decided this season that she wanted to win the state tournament. I had the girls fill out a thing, what's your goal this year? And she put it down. She started off a little slow and then really started working on it.
“About a month before state, she started getting it together. It finally clicked that hey, it's time to get it to the next level. She can hit the ball a long way. She's very accurate with her shots, it's just a little bit of inconsistency and the driver gets away from her once in a while. When she's hitting it, I envy her to the most because she hits it so well. And her irons are so crisp.”