LITTLE ROCK — Summar Roachell loves match play golf.
The ability of the Conway golfer to turn a struggling, stroke-play round into a form of match play was probably the difference in her winning the state Overall girls golf championship for the third time in four years.
The course at Pleasant Valley Country Club has extracted its share of agony from Roachell. She’s never played well here.
Understandable. It’s an extremely challenging layout for high school golfers with some tough reads on some greens, even for those who have played it before.
Thursday, most of the state’s best high school golfers, both boys and girls, were derailed at the start and fought to get their games on track by the final nine holes.
Roachell, the favorite who had a cases of the shanks on a couple of early holes, was one of those, muddling to 7-over on the front nine, opening the door for several other golfers.
“I hit a really good approach shot on the 10th hole and that got my momentum going,” said Roachell, who won a three-way playoff on the second extra hole to take home the first-place hardware. “Up until that point, I hadn’t hit many solid shots.”
She was chasing old rival Madison Talley of Clarksville, who was in her threesome. But in a group behind with a chance to be a surprise winner was Sarah Childers of Valley View. Childers, a junior, bogeyed six of the final seven holes to fall into a three-way playoff with Talley and Roachell.
That’s when Roachell refocused.
“I actually approached the last six holes (of regulation) as match play,” she said. “It was like I’m three-down with four left and things like that. I love match play and it actually helped to think that way.”
Already in a match play mindset, Roachell was ready for the playoff, which occurred about an hour after the three golfers had finished their regulation rounds.
The Conway golfer almost won on the par-4 first hole when an 11-foot putt lipped out. Roachell was so confident it was it that she began walking to the hole seconds after putting.
“I think I jinxed myself by trying to walk it in,” she said.
She settled things by getting her emotions and mechanics in sync on the par-3 second half, landing her tee shot over water about 18 inches away that led to solid birdie. Earlier in the day, she hit one of her worst shots of her career on that same hole, shanking it badly into the hazard and ending up with a triple bogey.
“You can’t let those things get in your head,” she said. “I did better — four strokes better,” she said with a laugh.
Roachell has had an intense month or so of golf. Thursday was the last round of her high school career that featured four straight 7A titles (believed to be unprecedented at the highest level) and three Overall titles in four years.
So what now?
“Do some homework,” she said.
She’s already passed her out-of-the-classroom tests.
Sports columnist David McCollum can be reached at 505-1235 or firstname.lastname@example.org