10/30/10 — Simmons ready for state tournament

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Simmons ready for state tournament

By Rudy Coggins
Published in Sports on October 30, 2010 11:09 PM

Patience. Focus. Endurance. Tara Simmons readily confesses those weren't her best attributes on the golf course during her freshman season at Charles B. Aycock.

One year of maturity has made a big difference. Simmons' concentration is stronger, her stamina has improved and she's demonstrated she can handle most adversities that have crossed her path.

Those mental hiccups, for the most part, are gone.

Simmons has proven it all season.

The sophomore lowered her stroke average from 75 as a freshman to 72, repeated as the Eastern Carolina 3-A Conference medalist and helped the Golden Falcons claim their second consecutive regular-season championship.

Her biggest progress occurred at Birchwood Country Club this past Monday.

An animated 16-year-old, Simmons worked through early-round trouble and emerged the leader through 15 holes when a rainstorm suspended play during the N.C. High School Athletic Association 1-A/2-A/3-A east regional.

She had to walk away from a chip shot for eagle on No. 16.

Once the rain subsided, Simmons took care of business. She finished the round strong and claimed the individual regional championship with a 4-over par 76. Simmons became the second straight golfer from the ECC to earn medalist honors after Eastern Wayne's Jasmine Reeves accomplished the feat one year ago on the Goldsboro Municipal Golf Course.

"I didn't know at the end ... really had no idea until Mallory's (Warrick) dad said 'congratulations Tara,'" laughed Simmons. "I looked my mom (Mary) and said 'really?' She said 'yes Tara, you were four up.

"I didn't know because I wasn't keeping Mallory's score. I didn't concentrate on them. I just took my shots as they came and had no idea until the end, so that was great."

Simmons returns to action Monday in the two-day, 36-hole state championship meet at Longleaf Golf and Country Club at Southern Pines. She finished fourth overall last season.

Aycock coach Roger Rhodes said the Longleaf plays out a little longer than Lane Tree Golf Club, which is the Golden Falcons' home course. There are unforgivable holes and club selection is important on challenging doglegs that require a golfer to hit with accuracy.

"You have to move the ball a lot," said Simmons. "I learned a lot of things (last year). There is some tough competition out there and you have to hold it together to win. I had a chance, but now I know you have to keep it together mentally ... have to be tough and keep your composure.

"That's the biggest thing."

Simmons plays weekend tournaments along with her normal high school schedule. She constantly battles against good competition, including that within her own family. Her father, Wallace, is her coach. Her younger brother Matt helped lead Fremont Middle School to a runner-up finish in the state tournament, while Wesley has developed an uncanny knack for chipping and putting on the greens.

That in-family action drives Simmons to play harder each time she steps onto the course. She understands that golf's unpredictability entices you to practice and strive each day to improve your game.

Rhodes agrees.

"The metal aspect of the game is the best asset that she's got, and that desire to be good," said Rhodes before the duo headed to the practice range at LTGC. "(Her) patience (is better) ... not getting flustered between holes and just focusing on the task at hand, watching the rest of them and trying to help the rest of them become better along the way."

And become better herself.