Playing golf with Teigan Avery can shed light on how the Kalispell teenager developed into one of Montana’s great junior golfers.
Before each shot, she quietly reads the blades of grass beneath her ball, examining which direction they are pointing. Preparing her swing, she factors in the elements around her and within, including her natural draw. And after the ball soars toward the pin, regardless of the outcome she likes to tell a joke or sing a song in her head or chat with her opponents.
This disciplined approach and happy-go-lucky demeanor are among the contrasting yet defining characteristics that make Avery a unique athlete with a remarkable legacy firmly intact.
A senior at Glacier High School, she tees off at her final Class AA state tournament in Helena this week. Avery will try to win her third individual state championship, a rare feat only 10 other girls have accomplished in state history, according to the Montana High School Association record books.
Avery is leading a talented Glacier girls squad into the state tournament at Bill Roberts Golf Course Oct. 1-2.
In the weeks leading up to the season finale, Avery’s mental and physical gifts were on full display. At the two-day Kalispell Invitational two weeks ago, she was a wire-to-wire winner, carding her best score all season — a 2-under 70 at Northern Pines Golf Club — and finishing with a 73 on Friday at Buffalo Hill Golf Club to win by 12 strokes.
Avery’s longtime friend and talented opponent, Whitefish senior Coral Schulz, placed second with 75-80— 155. Schulz will try to defend her Class A championship at the state meet in Sidney, Oct. 2-3.
The two girls have known each other since they were talented 10-year-olds succeeding in junior tournaments across the region. Now they are considered two of the best in Montana.
“It’s been awesome having someone that is close to me who I can compete against and we go back and forth,” Schulz said.
“It’s so much fun. I’ve learned a lot from (Avery). She is just super consistent. I try to play smart like she does. And she is one of the nicest people I’ve met and super funny.”
This Zen-like approach is the latest skill that Avery has fine-tuned on the course.
As recently as this summer, she was struggling with the mental side of golf, which is about 90 percent of the game, as the old saying goes. The pressure of success can weigh heavily sometimes, especially when expectations build up.
And then right when her final high school season started in August she was diagnosed with mononucleosis, a virus that causes fatigue and lingers for months.
At a tournament at Old Works in Anaconda, Avery shot a 10 on a par 5.
“It probably would’ve been a 13 if there wasn’t a 10-stroke rule,” she said.
It was her worst score in a golf round since she was a freshman. She finished the day with an 81, well out of first place.
Oftentimes, that’s when a player spirals out of control. But that’s when it all clicked for Avery.
“I’ve read all the books about the mental game and they all pretty much say the same thing — you have to be focused over the shot but afterward you just have to accept it,” she said. “For me, if I stay angry, it turns into another bad shot and then another bad shot. I just have to let it go and accept it.”
The next day, Avery fired a 72 and won the tournament by seven strokes.
“I’ve really turned a corner these last few weeks and realized that what happens, happens,” she said.
Advanced wisdom for any golfer, let alone a teenager.
Since she first picked up a set of clubs at age 9 and quickly began outshooting opponents both young and old, Avery has dominated the game in remarkable fashion.
At 12, she stunned the talented field of adults and won the Labor Day Golf Tournament at the Buffalo Hill Golf Club.
“I remember reading about her winning the tournament and thinking, ‘Wow. This kid must be really good,’” said Alice Ritzman, a Kalispell native who played on the LPGA Tour for 20 years and helped instruct Avery in recent years.
“She has figured out how to play all positions in the game pretty well.”
At 13, she achieved two of the game’s hardest tasks in a matter of months, hitting the ball into the hole from 200 yards out on her second shot on a par 5 for an albatross and then nailing a hole-in-one from 125 yards after blading her pitching wedge.
At 14, she shot under par for the first time, carding 71 at Eagle Bend.
At 16, she won her first of two Class AA state championships with a record-setting performance, 72-73—145, breaking the all-time low score for AA.
The last two summers she has competed at the Big I National Championship Tournament against the best junior golfers in the U.S.
All of this while maintaining a 4.0 GPA and participation in several organizations and activities, including being a state officer in DECA, a student leadership group.
Her college plans are already settled — she plans to attend the University of Montana on a golf scholarship. Her education goals are also set in front of her — attend law school someday and study to be a foreign diplomat or judge.
Approaching the final rounds of her high school career, Avery is comfortable on the course, training with a distinct smile and disciplined nature.
“I have nothing left to prove to anyone,” she said. “I just want to shoot a good score for myself, and do as well as I know I can do. Even if that’s not enough and someone else has a great round, then they won it. I just want to do as well as I can do.”
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