Gainesville golfer Madeline Harr’s sophomore season didn’t begin the way she had hoped.
After a successful freshman season, girls coach Clay McDonald expected even more out of her in 2012, but things just didn’t begin the way he had hoped.
“She started out a little slow,” McDonald said. “She wasn’t really playing as well as she had as a ninth grader. She wasn’t playing the way she wanted to play.”
That all changed at the Hall County Championships.
After shooting a solid first-round 44 at the tournament in March, her first real strong round, according to McDonald, she came off the course and looked at the scoreboard.
“She saw that (teammates) Meg (Callahan) and Morgan (Reece) were still ahead of her, and I saw on her face that she was intent on remedying that,” McDonald said. “She came out the next day and shot the lowest round of the entire tournament.”
Harr’s second-round 40 gave her an 84 for the tournament, good for fourth place. But it was her play in the second round that set her on a successful pace for the rest of the season.
“She never looked back after that,” the coach said. “She was more consistent. She was more competitive. She’s very tenacious to begin with, but after that, she really stepped it up another notch and stayed there the rest of the year.”
Harr jumped from the third spot on the team to No. 1 for the final weeks of the season and took the Region 8-AAA individual title after beating Callahan in a playoff. For the season, she averaged an 85.7, tops on her team, which took home the Class AAA state championship.
For her efforts, she is the Times Girls Golfer of the Year.
Harr’s success didn’t begin as a freshman at Gainesville. It goes back a long way to when she was a young child.
She began playing competitively during middle school, but has been around the sport for her whole life.
“My family loves golf,” she said. “So I’ve been around it since I was really little.”
But it’s the instant gratification for her hard work that keeps her around the sport. Already a competitive individual, she puts a lot of work into playing. And to her, nothing feels as good as seeing that one good shot during a round of golf.
“I think the work and the reward is what really draws me to it,” she said. “If you’re going to play, you have to fall in love with the challenge. It’s a hard sport, and seeing that one good shot out of all the shots you make on a given day, that’s what makes it all worthwhile. It’s not about others’ impressions. It’s your own reward, and that’s such a good feeling.”
McDonald put it simply.
“I think that when she took up the sport, she realized how difficult it was,” he said. “And that’s what really keeps her interested in it.”
It’s also what drives her to put so much time and effort in.
The Lady Red Elephants spend every day at the golf course during the season. Most days are spent playing in competitions; the rest are spent practicing on the driving range.
And even when her teammates aren’t there, Harr finds herself at the course on a regular basis.
“I joke with friends at the beginning of spring. I’ll say, ‘Well, I’ll see you after golf season,’” she said. “But it’s good. That’s how we improve.”
“We’re usually out there,” McDonald said. “But even if we’re not out there, she is. To put it in a nutshell, she wants to be the best. She doesn’t talk about it outwardly, but you can tell by the way she goes about it that she wants to be the best at anything she does.”
And she’ll continue to strive for that as a junior next season.
Winning this year’s state championship as a team was nice, Harr said, but that doesn’t mean that they’ve reached the top.
“None of us won individually at state,” she said. “We can’t just sit back and keep playing like we’re playing, because if we do, we won’t get any better. We focus on playing the course and playing the game, and even though we won state, we can still get better.”
McDonald put their success in perspective, but also exercised caution going forward.
“I don’t know that it has completely sunk in, what they accomplished,” he said. “You can just look around at some of the other great Gainesville teams this year that came close, but fell just short. It isn’t easy to win a state championship.
“But, my father was a coach, and he told me early on that it’s difficult to get to the top, but even harder to stay at the top. They know that we can still play better and that we’ll have to play better, because people will be looking at us next year.”