Sunny Powers is putting faith in her coach.
Sunny Powers is putting faith in her coach.
Powers trusts that he's right, and that if she continues on a path similar to that of the player with which she's most closely aligned in the annals of Concordia University women's golf, she, too, could pursue a professional career.
So far, so good.
Powers, a former district champion for North Medford, recently capped her junior season with the Cavaliers by making the NAIA All-America first team for the second straight season.
That matched the two by Lindsay Aho for the most in Concordia history. Powers also was named Cascade Collegiate Conference player of the year and has been an all-CCC selection three times.
Aho was an assistant coach for the Cavaliers the past couple years, but she took her game this year to the Cactus Tour, a mini loop based in Phoenix, Ariz. There, she's had three top-six finishes and has shown she belongs with a number of strong rounds.
Powers and her coach, Ronn Grove, have paid attention.
He's told her that she has the tools, and if she directs energy toward improving, Powers' goal of trying to make the LPGA Tour through qualifying school or, failing that, her interest in honing her skills on the Cactus Tour, can become reality.
Those inducements are down the road a bit, but the work toward them is ongoing.
"He tells me that if I have a little more dedication and focus, I can do more than I ever thought I could do," said Powers.
She is coming off a season in which she averaged 78.0 strokes for 26 rounds. That lowered her career stroke average to 78.32, or below Aho's pace when she established the school record of 79.15.
Powers won five of the 11 tournaments she played in during the fall and spring seasons, and never did she place outside the top 15.
At the national championships at Wilderness Ridge Golf Club in Lincoln, Neb., late last month, she tied for 11th, improving seven places from the previous year's national tournament and bettering the previous Concordia low of 13th by Aho in 2008.
Powers wasn't particularly thrilled with her scoring, going 75, 80, 77 and 78 for a 310 total. She was 15 shots behind winner Jessica Schiele of Oklahoma City University.
"I definitely didn't shoot what I wanted to," said Powers, whose season goal, lofty though it may have been, was to not exceed 75 in any round.
Her best rounds in 2012-13 were 72s, accomplished twice in the spring and once in the fall.
The strength of her game is a blend of power and precision. She's among the longest hitters in the conference, averaging roughly 250 yards off the tee, but she also rarely misses fairways.
Her hands and wrists are strong, which enables her to fight through potential chunky shots and handle whatever rough she might find herself in.
But despite playing on a short course at nationals that appeared ripe for overpowering, other elements were in play.
"The difficulty of that course was it was really windy the last two days," said Powers. "It really affected my drives, which is the strong part of my game. Hitting into the wind, I was spraying my drives."
She was surprised she placed as high as she did but recognizes being named All-American again was a special honor. Now she wants a third such accolade that will put her at the top of Concordia's list.
To do so, she'll use a different approach in practice, and practice is something she hasn't taken to as much as some.
"No, I never really have, not even in high school," said Powers. "But my coach was talking to me about if I want to be a professional and he was giving me his insight into what he's seen. He was talking to me about Lindsay Aho and how much dedication she has to practice each day. I need to get that mindset. The pros hit golf balls all day. They're fresh every single day and don't forget anything or lose anything."
Powers' approach this season was to examine the previous tournament, pinpoint her weakness, then work mostly on that aspect the following week.
As it turns out, she said, the parts she largely neglected were the areas that failed her in the next tournament. They might have meant the difference between an even-par round and a 75 or so.
Her workout regimen will be well-rounded this summer and through next year, she said, taking time to work on each facet of the game each day.
This summer, she'll also return to the basics because she'll be teaching kids how to play.
Powers, who is majoring in exercise and sports science, will intern at a Portland-area club in The First Tee, a program for youth development through golf.
She had some teaching experience when she helped former Bear Creek Golf Course owner Marla Parmele (formerly Corbin) give youth lessons.
Powers thinks working with kids again will help her.
"It kind of reminds you what the basics in golf are," she said. "I'll mostly be teaching stuff like how to grip the club, putting stroke, keeping your eye on the ball, basic things you have to remember. Sometimes I find myself on the golf course forgetting little things like that. When I hit a thin shot, I didn't keep my head down, or if I'm mis-hitting short putts, I'm not keeping my hands still and not using my shoulders to turn. I'm too handsy."
For the summer, she said, she might enter some Oregon Golf Association tournaments and will mostly practice on her own to get ready for her senior season.
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