COVINGTON -- On more days than not this summer, Ally Black is on the driving range, on the practice green or out on the course grinding away with the hot Georgia sun sometimes making the conditions brutal.
With most of her time being spent at her home away from home, Cherokee Run golf Club in Conyers, Black, along with the help of head pro Tommy Moon and grandfather Rex Genson, have helped make the summer prior her upcoming junior year at Newton High School a busy one.
From the time her sophomore golf season ended with the Rams in late April, Black has played in seven tournaments across the state of Georgia, not including her first-place finish at the Covington City Amateur on June 23.
After firing her lowest round of golf in tournament play this summer, a round of 84 at Hard Labor Creek in Rutledge, followed by a runner-up finish at the GSGA regional at Bentwater Golf Club in Acworth, Black was rewarded with an invite to one of the state’s most prestigious youth tournaments.
Black is set to compete in the GSGA Junior Tour Championship 15-16 advanced division that will field seven of the state’s best. The tournament, held at Barnsley Resort in Adairsville, will play as a 54-hole tournament across three days.
Day 1 of the tournament is scheduled to start today.
“I was more shocked, to be honest,” Black said of her tournament invite. “I haven’t played too great in the tournaments that I’ve played this summer, so I was a little surprised.”
While the 16-year-old hasn’t been overly pleased with her tournament finishes so far this summer, her play has taken an upswing in recent weeks. Black is fresh off a three-day trip to Hilton Head where she received coaching from PGA Professional Oswald Drawdy.
During her three-day stay, Black recorded her first career hole-in-one.
“When I made the hole-in-one, I didn’t get to watch it go in because there was a mound before the green,” Black said. “When I walked up, I was wondering where my ball was because I knew that I had hit it pretty well. One of the boys was like, ‘it’s in the hole. It’s in the hole.’I was surprised.”
Overall, Black said her opportunity to gain some last-minute coaching prior to the Junior Tour Championship should help her chances of shooting low.
“It was really helpful,” Black said. “It helped me build up my stamina for the upcoming tournament. Being able to walk three days, 18 holes in the hot sun. He was a lot of help. He’s been working with me on something in my swing to help me hopefully get some more yardage. Also helping me make better contact and pop with the ball. He was very involved.”
Her recent swing of momentum is something she hopes will carry over into the tournament.
“My goal is to go as low as I can,” Black said. “But I just want to enjoy the moment and kind of go with what I’m doing. I still have a lot more practice to do. I’m more ready than I was, but I still feel as if I need to work even more.”
Following her tournament invite, Black and Genson wasted little time in setting up a practice round at Barnsley. While her first attempt at the course wasn’t too successful, one more practice round on Tuesday should put her in a good position, she said.
“It’s kind of nerve racking whenever I go to a new golf course,” Black said. “If I hit it too far left or too far right, I don’t know what it’s going to do. On a new course, I don’t know how the greens are going to act. When I hit a shot and it doesn’t end up well, I know what to do for the next time. So that’s always helpful going into the actual round.”
Not having played in a three-day tournament this summer, Black said she hopes she can gain confidence with each passing round.
“I just want to go the first day, take off of what I did in the practice round and do better,” Black said. “Hopefully by the second day I will have everything kind of written in stone with me knowing what to do and what I want to do. Hopefully I’ll come through and do that.”
With not a lot of downtime this summer, her intense practice schedule has tested both mentally and physically for the game she is still fairly new to. To help battle through, Black has reminded herself what her hard work has gotten her thus far.
“It kind of has been a grind,” Black said. “And that kind of ties into the reason why I posted a tweet a couple of weeks ago. It said, ‘just whenever you think about giving up, you have to push harder.’ It does get tiring and you ask yourself, ‘is it really worth it being out here in the hot sun when I can be at home in front of the air conditioning?’ But the more I work at it, I know that I’m going to get better. It’s worth it and I have to keep pushing myself.”
Black will tee off at 2:40 p.m. this afternoon while being paired up with competitor Lainey Panter of Blue Ridge.