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LOs Simanton glad she stuck with golf

by: , Lake Oswego’s Amy Beth Simanton has been one of the hottest junior golfers in the state this summer. Her achievements include a high finish at the PNGA Junior Championships and a district title in high school.

Approximately a year ago, Lake Oswego's Amy Beth Simanton wasn't sure that golf would be her sport. She was good at it, but playing the game seemed a lot like work.

Then, Simanton started practicing more and her game improved dramatically. Then she wanted to play, and now you can barely keep her off of the course.

'Last year, I played golf because I was good at it,' she said. 'Now, I play because I want to have a future at it.'

Simanton was six years old when her father, Dave, first got his daughter interested in golf. Dave, who played two years for the University of Arizona golf team, discovered right away that his daughter had a natural golf swing.

It wasn't long after that Amy Beth was playing in regional tournaments and she was more than holding her own in her age group. Then, while playing last spring for the Lake Oswego High School golf team, the young Simaton won the district golf title as a freshman.

For some people, it was a surprise that West Linn senior Danielle Ranallo didn't win that district tournament. She had dominated league play up to that point. But Simanton was more in her element playing in an extended tournament (36 holes or more), similar to the OGA events she played in during the previous summers.

'I never played well in the nine-hole tournaments, because I'm not used to playing only nine holes,' she said.

She won the district title with rounds of 75 and 76. Simanton called it her best golf of the year.

But she didn't rest on her laurels. If anything, she picked up the pace during the summer season, which is just now winding down.

Her first achievement of the summer was making it to the championship match (for 12 to 14 year-olds) in the OGA's match-play tournament. Unfortunately, Simanton wound up losing that championship match to West Linn's Sharon Shin.

Then there was a sixth-place finish in the OGA's stroke-play championship. Her scores of 81, 75 and 85 left her only six shots behind the winner.

That set the stage earlier this month for an even better showing at the PNGA Junior Girls Amateur Championship in Washington. After a single day of stroke-play qualifying, Simanton found herself in second place with a 1-over-par score of 73.

That moved the Lake Oswego teen into match play, but an early-round loss there knocked her into the first flight. She then worked her way to the championship of that flight before losing a 2 and 1 match to Kaitlin Parsons of Wenatchee.

After a summer like that, Simanton might be hooked on golf forever.

'I actually practiced every day this year,' she said, noting that the game of golf has become fun again. And she's no longer nervous when she plays in big tournaments.

'At the beginning of the summer, I was always nervous,' she said. 'But, by the end of the summer, I had played in so many tournaments that I wasn't nervous any more.'

There was a point when her father almost had to drag Simanton to the golf course. Now he doesn't even have to ask whether she wants to go.

'I think I finally realized that if you practice a lot, it will really pay off,' she said.

'Now, I don't have to play golf. I get to play golf,' Simanton said.

Eventually, the young Simanton would like to play golf professionally. In the interim, she hopes to land a golf scholarship to Washington State University, where her father spent his last two years college.