HUNTERSVILLE – Golf is the rare sport where your biggest competition isn’t the other players with you on the course, or even the course itself, but rather your ability to remain composed while navigating each hole.
For Christ the King junior Malerie Lague, who finished top five at the 1A/2A state championship as a freshman and followed that up with a state runner-up showing as the top 1A finisher last year, it’s the mental aspect of the game that sets her apart.
“She’s very steady,” Crusaders head coach Jim Haughey, who also serves as Lague’s personal swing coach, said. “You can never tell how she’s playing. I used to coach college and, even at that level, you can look two fairways over and see kids with their shoulders down and you know that they’re playing bad. Malerie has a strong head and doesn’t get too frazzled by anything really.”
But just like perfecting your swing off the tee or your putting stroke on the green, maintaining a calm demeanor while on the course also takes work.
“A lot of my focus the past two years has been on improving my mental game and that’s the part of my game where I’ve grown the most,” Lague said. “Once you get the physical aspect down, it’s the mental game that takes shots away.”
That’s not to say Lague doesn’t also work tirelessly at honing the skills that have her on the doorstep of a state championship.
“You’ll never have a perfect swing but I work a lot on trying to perfect it as much as I can,” she said. “I really work on my technique – backswing and follow through – and just making every swing is as consistent as possible.”
Lague’s stiffest competition locally, and statewide for that matter, had been Pine Lake’s Caroline Johnson, who capped a stellar career by winning last year’s 1A/2A state championship as a senior. Johnson now plays collegiately for the Charlotte 49ers, but those battles of old continue to pay dividends for Lague.
“Every single match we played was always neck-and-neck so there was always pressure on every single putt,” Lague said. “In high school, having somebody that is just as good as you or maybe even better is good because it pushes you to want to be better and it pushes you to go out for those late night practices. Having that familiar face – I always knew I was going to be playing with Caroline – so I always wanted to do my best and try to beat her whenever I could.”
Johnson’s absence isn’t the only thing that’s new for Lague this season as, for the first time in her high school career, Christ the King features enough players to compete as a team at regionals and in the state championship should they qualify. Lague is the most experienced of the bunch and she’s jumped at the opportunity to help her teammates in whatever way possible.
“We’ve been having fun at practices and it’s always good to have more girls out there you can talk with about the course or about your round,” she said. “Me and Isabella (Ferlaino) went out and played the back nine after one of our matches the other day, so we worked together and I gave her a couple tips that she said helped a lot.”
While her teammates are fairly new to the sport, Lague has played countless rounds growing up and now often plays in weekend tournaments. Her home course is NorthStone Country Club, where she says her favorite hole to play is No. 7.
“It’s a par three, downhill with bushes in front,” she said. “I have a lot of memories of me and my dad going out there, and he always says it’s his least favorite. He doesn’t like it because he chunks it in the bush but we always laugh and have a good time playing it.”