Ryan Silapan, Silapan Says: I took in a practice round with Muldrow’s Matlock one week before she competes in the First Tee National Par 3 contest
FORT SMITH, Ark. — Two days after competing in and winning the Broken Arrow G&AC Junior Championship, Kirsten Matlock was back on the golf course on Wednesday.
The incoming senior at Muldrow High was back at the Ben Geren Golf Course to working on her game for a multiple of reasons.
Matlock the previous day got a brand new set of golf of Taylor Made golf clubs so she was eager to test out her brand new set of clubs and is preparing to compete in the First Tee National Par-3 Championship next week on the 16 and 17th at the Kanawha Club in Richmond, Va.
Matlock will be one of 32 participants — 16 boys and 16 girls — from across the country that was chosen to play in the event.
But before flying out to Richmond next week I met Matlock at Ben Geren and watched her play a practice round.
As I met Matlock at 9:30 a.m. at the golf course she was walking off the practice putting green and ready to play.
I hopped into the cart with Matlock who drove the entire 18 holes and went up to the first tee.
Matlock who was decked out in a black hat, grey and black top and black skirt along with a pair black Nike golf shoes, teed it up and hit a great drive right down the middle of the fairway.
Matlock’s second shot hit the green on the par 4 and left her a birdie putt of about 10 feet.
The putt would just miss leaving her a tap in par.
Throughout the round Matlock’s routine stayed consistent from her practice strokes before a tee shot, second shot or on the green.
There was the occasional look at the putt from another angle or behind the cup.
For Matlock it’s during the summer when she feels she will make a name for herself.
“Summer golf means I have to get down to it and practice hard,” she said. “I have to make sure everything is perfect because summer golf is what coaches are going to look at and it’s more competitive.
“I want to be good, win tournaments and be recruited so I have to practice whenever I can.”
Matlock plans to continue to play golf in college and hopes to translate her talents on the course into some sort of scholarship at a college.
Matlock is open to going to school anywhere in the country if she can get her education paid for.
“I want to go to a college that has a good education because that’s my main focus,” Matlock said. “If I could get a golf scholarship that’s going to pay for most of it then great.”
As the round went on Matlock talked about having a personal coach in Phillip Walker who runs the Back 9 Golf Academy in Bentonville, Ark.
Matlock said she will be making a trip or two to see Walker where he’ll be able to help find tune the distances for Matlock’s new clubs and provide advice before flying to Richmond on Tuesday.
“In the first few lessons he got me better, it was like night and day,” Matlock said. “He’s a really good coach and helps me with the mental side of the game. He’s completely changed my game.”
Matlock — who won a Class 4A Regional medalist award — wasn’t thrilled about her tie for 20th place at State.
Not one to visibly show her frustration or anger on the course, Matlock maintained her big smile throughout the round.
“I just get mad on the inside,” Matlock said. “I know I can do better and I just want to make myself better.”
Usually a slow starter but a strong finisher on Wednesday Matlock was the exact opposite.
Matlock — who didn’t keep score — carded a two-under par on the front nine.
Not bad for the first time she used her brand new set of sticks.
“Once I get used to hitting them I’m going to hit them really good,” Matlock said. “I hit a few of those really good. That driver I gained probably 15-20 yards and that was the first time I was using it. Once I practice with it I may gain even more distance.”
Practice is something Matlock will do everyday until she flies out on Tuesday.
“I’ll be practicing every day until I leave,” Matlock said. “I’ll either play in the morning or hit balls everyday before that.”
Matlock used the back nine as more of a practice round hitting extra shots and dropping balls for some extra practice shots.
Her pace of play is quite smooth not too fast, not too slow.
Being able to play at the First Tee National Par-3 Championship next week at Kanawha Club is something she’s been thinking about for a while.
“I just know I’m going to have my irons in tune and putting is going to have to be good,” Matlock said. “It seems like a par 3 would be easier but at times it’s harder because you have to be so accurate.”
Kanawha is such private course that neither Matlock’s mom or grandma who will both be flying with her to Richmond will be allowed to watch her play.
Matlock said they aren’t too down about not watching her play because they get to go to the beach and enjoy some leisure time.
Regardless of how she plays, Matlock will likely have a big smile on her face.
Ryan Silapan is the sports editor of Your TIMES you can follow him on Twitter @RyanSilapan or reach him at 918-775-4433