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LOHS Simanton makes 2007 a golf season to remember

by: Vern Uyetake, 
This has been quite a year for Lake Oswego golfer Amy Beth Simanton. Two months ago, she shared medalist honors at the state high school tournament. Then she recently qualified for a spot in the Callaway Junior Championship and the USGA Girls Junior Amateur Championship. She will also compete in the Junior America’s Cup at Waverley.

Amy Beth Simanton probably could be a star in a number of sports. She's that good of an athlete. But she's decided to focus all of her attention on golf because, quite frankly, she's one of the best junior players in the state.

Simanton proved that two months ago when she shared the state high school golf championship with Lincoln's Avery Sills.

Then, as if to prove that the state title was no fluke, Simanton claimed one of Oregon's two qualifying spots for the Callaway Junior World Championships, which are being held this week at Torrey Pines in San Diego, Calif.

Next week, she will compete in the USGA Girls Junior Amateur Championship after earning a qualifying spot in a tournament that was held in Minnesota. She also recently earned a spot in the Junior America's Cup, which will be held in two weeks at Waverley Country Club in Portland.

With credentials like that, one might think that Simanton was getting ready to play for a big-name college team somewhere. But she still has two years of school left at Lake Oswego High School.

Regardless of what she accomplishes over the next two years, 2007 surely will be a year that Simanton will remember for a long time to come.

'It's been a lot of fun,' said Simanton, who is quietly confident and never seems rattled by anything that goes wrong on the course.

During the recently completed high school season, Lake Oswego girls coach Mark Shoff said he was amazed by Simanton's ability to get 'up and down' for pars in difficult situations.

It seems most good young players can hit the ball a long ways, but what often separates the best from the rest is an ability to recover after hitting errant shots. Simanton has learned the value of that part of the game at a young age.

'I've been working a lot on my short game - being able to get up and down from anywhere,' Simanton said after her final tutored workout before heading to San Diego.

The Laker sophomore also credits some of her success to the work she's done with training guru Jason Fawcett, who helped get Lake Oswego's Kevin Love into top-notch shape before his senior basketball season.

'That helped a lot … but I've put in a lot of effort towards getting good at golf,' Simanton said.

Fawcett helped the young golf star improve her balance and gave her more strength, which comes in handy in the national tournaments where the girls often have to hit from the men's tees.

'That's hard for a lot of girls,' Simanton said of the added distance, 'so it helps to hit it a little farther.'

Simanton said she averages about 240 yards off the tee, which puts her just slightly ahead of most of her opponents. 'That helps,' she said, 'because the people that don't hit it very far really struggle.

'But another thing about me that helps is I hit it pretty straight, too.'

Simanton also seems to have mastered the mental aspect of the game. It's not unusual for a high school player to come unraveled after two or three bad shots, but the Laker star has the ability to quickly release negative thoughts and then move on.

Simanton's unflappable demeanor was really put to the test at the state championships in May, when it looked like she was out of the running and then managed to regroup and rally for a tie.

'That was the first time where I really had to focus and say, 'OK, this is big,' she said. 'That was the first time that I showed myself that I could handle (the pressure) … and control my nerves.'

During the regular season, it was a virtual guarantee that Simanton would shoot a score in the 70s. By doing so, she won most of her league tournaments and the conference tournament with relative ease. So she was shocked when she managed to share the state tournament title by shooting a score in the 80s.

Granted, the OGA course in Woodburn was playing harder than expected that day, but one has to wonder what she could accomplish in the future when she starts playing at her normal level.