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Tahoe golfer has tough round

Mike Traum

It’s said that golf is 80 percent mental. Mackenzie Francis has found the other 20 percent.

The South Tahoe High senior admits her wits have gotten the best of her during the first two rounds of the Junior World Golf Championships at the incomparable Torrey Pines Country Club in La Jolla, Calif.

After firing in the upper-70s and low-80’s throughout the summer, which qualified Francis for the elite tournament, the young stick wonder has carded a pair of “embarrassing” rounds on Tuesday and Wednesday – 95 and 89.

“My first really big tournament,” Francis said, “and I haven’t shown my stuff yet. My swing is there. I’ve just been a mental wreck these last two days.”

The par-74 Torrey Pines layout has been putting Francis through the ringer. With accuracy at a premium, along with high, warm sea-level humidity stopping her shots seemingly in mid-air and “Beware of Snakes” warning signs greeting her at every out-of-bounds marker, Francis has been struggling to put her game together.

“My swing is there. As much as it’s made me mad, it’s probably funny (for people) watching me. I’ve been all over the place,” said the right-hander, who swung and missed twice while trying to hit left-handed from under a tree. “You name it, I’ve gotten every bad break. There’s no doubt I can do it, it’s all in my head.”

After beginning Wednesday’s round at one-over through the first five holes, the dreaded sixth – a downhill par-3 guarded by a big trap short and OB long – Francis’ head took over. She revisited the same sloping sand trap, which produced a seven on Tuesday. This time she made six.

“I was ready to throw clubs,” said Francis jokingly. “And I’m realizing I just can’t hit it as far at sea level. I’ve been hitting driver, not my four-iron like usual, and I’m coming up 35 yards shorter than I normally do. I can’t believe I’m saying it, but this course is so long. It’s the longest I’ve ever played.”

The pressure has been compounded by Francis’ knowing that college scouts are scouring the Torrey Pines talent pool. But there comes a point, she said, when all that matters is playing to the best of your ability and simply letting things transpire as they will.

“I’ve got to remember that my goal was to just get here. It’s the best of the best from around the globe. I’m not having too much fun, but I know it’s a learning experience,” she said. “Playing on this beautiful course is great and as long as I improve every day, I’ll be happy with that. I just need to relax.”

Francis estimated it would take a score of 74 today to make the cut.


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