BILLINGS — It's said that an athlete has trouble remembering the great victories of their career but never forgets the agonizing defeats. That's why Carrie Carpenter can't stop thinking about Sept. 28, 2018.
"Last year at state was tough, and lipping out the last putt was not ideal," Carpenter said.
After winning almost every tournament as a junior, the Billings West golfer took a four-shot lead after a 73 on Day 1 of the Class AA state tournament, only to see her championship hopes fade with a second day 82, and a one-shot loss.
"I was trying not to lose instead of trying to win," Carpenter admitted.
"It hurt her, because she wasn't playing her aggressive style," echoed West head golf coach Marcus Drange. "And now she's starting to realize, 'OK, I'm going to put the foot down as far as it can go.'"
She's hit top speed. Carpenter won the Montana State Juniors title over the summer and has won every single high school tournament she's played this fall.
"I learned a little bit more about the mental side of the game, and improved in that way, and that made me more consistent," Carpenter said of her solid play over the summer leading into the high school season. "I know after a bad shot I'm able to bounce back a little bit."
"She's fortunately won a couple events when she hasn't played her best golf, which has been fun to see," Drange added.
Carpenter won't always shoot a career low, but she has all the tools to now, including ones not in her bag. But when asked what's the most important factor this week?
"Putting," she said without hesitation. "That's where you make your strokes at."
"She's focused a lot on the putting greens," Drange said. "Her routine for warming up, and even at practice a lot, revolves around the putting green a lot more than hitting balls."
It's what a smart golfer would do, and we know Carpenter is just that.
The 2019 State AA golf tournament was originally schedule for Oct. 3-4 at Meadowlark Golf Club in Great Falls, but has been pushed back to Oct. 8-9 to allow recent snow to melt and temperatures to warm up.