Tess Davenport has learned a lot both on and off the golf course over the past six months.
Of course, as a recently-graduated Mill Creek senior, she learned the rest of her class load as she completed her high school studies.
And on the course, she has worked all winter and much of the spring on adjustments to her swing that benefited her both during his high school season with the Hawks and with her individual play in junior tournaments.
But most of all, the 2019 Gwinnett Daily Post Girls Golf Player of the Year learned how to deal with a bit of adversity and how to bounce back from it.
“She’s a model of professionalism when it comes to her golf, and her education,” Mill Creek coach David Allen said of Davenport. “Her grades are super high. Just the way she’s handled herself in her golf career, it’s just a good model for our younger kids.”
The senior handled herself well in just about every situation for Mill Creek througout this spring, including a round of even-par round of 72, good for 54 points, to earn low medalist honors and help the Hawks to a second-place finish in the Girls High School Stableford Classic at Horshoe Bend Country Club in April.
Her most important contribution came at the state tournament, where rounds of 73 and 77 earned her third place in the individual leaderboard and Mill Creek to a runner-up team finish in the Class AAAAAAA state tournament late last month at Chimney Oaks Golf Club in Homer.
But those results did not come easily.
The swing changes took a lot of hard work, both physically and mentally.
“I started working with Sean Cain right at two years ago and we had a major swing change,” Davenport said. “And this (past) fall, I didn’t play in any tournaments. I would go up to Lake Oconee, and I would have lessons with him twice a month and I started seeing one of his possessional performance trainers. I had a hip deficiency, which basically means that my right hip would break down no matter what I did, and that was kind of like my main problem.
“So I’ve been working with him and he’s been giving me a lot of workouts and stretches and everything to help build … my strength up. Ever since, I think, February, I’ve been working with him and my swing has changed drastically. I was able to perform so well this year just because I finally felt secure in my swing. I’ve been working at this for two years now. … I feel much better about my swing and more more confident going into this summer.”
While her comfort level rose, there were still some things for her to work out throughout the season, even as late as the Area 4-AAAAAAA tournament in late April.
By her own admission, Davenport was not at her best during that day’s round at Summit Chase Country Club in Snellville, a difficult course under even the best of situations.
Still, her round of 80 that day was enough to tie for third with North Gwinnett’s Lauren Maher and help the Hawks finish as area team runner-up, and earn a spot in the state tournament.
She rebounded quite nicely about three weeks later, with her opening round of 1-over 73 paving the way for her, and the team’s, strong finish.
While she was hardly satisfied with the result, another rebound of sorts by overcoming a rough start to shoot 77 on the second round demonstrates her adjustment in the way she thinks on the course.
“Area was a little rough. I just had a lesson the day before, so my head was kind of all over the place,’ Davenport said. “I was just happy we qualified for state. But my first round (at state), I think I was 3-under on the back nine. On the front nine, I was still kind of getting into the rhythm of things. My nerves were still kind of there, but the back nine, I really turned it on and felt more comfortable.
“I think the second day, I shot 77. I think I went in with a score set in my mind. I was expecting to shoot under par, but I think that kind of messed with me mentally. I didn’t perform as well, but I still took away some great shots. I still understood my mistakes, but … I think I had too high of expectations, when I should’ve just played the game.”
Allen isn’t surprised about how high a standard Davenport set for herself, , something that should serve her well as she plays college golf at Vanderbilt beginning in the fall.
“That just shows you how competitive she is,” Allen said. “I think if she had it back, she’d have probably done another practice round at Summit Chase, but she just wasn’t able to get out there with us that day. But her determination was for our team to win state, No. 1, and her to be low medalist at state. That was her goal this year. … I think she probably changed her strategy a little bit on Day 2 and tried to force a couple things that got her into trouble. But she bounced back with the eagle on 15 and to finish out, I think she played the last four holes at 3-under par. That’s golf. Some days you’re on and some days, the ball doesn’t roll your way.
“But she handles things well. I’m really proud that one thing she’s improved on the most is her demeanor on the golf course. She’s shown a big improvement in that area. So her comeback after area and shoot a 73 in the first round of state just shows, again, her competitive nature and her drive.”