In a positively positive summer of golf, Stephanie Miller recently swapped out her trusty Yes! putter for a Scotty Cameron.
Not her Yes!
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"Yes, yes, yes," Miller said with a laugh.
Always fun and always fun to watch stroke golf balls, the incoming Stevenson senior tees it up in one final tournament in what has been a whirlwind summer for her, before devoting her attention to her final season of high school golf.
Yes, the tourney is big. It's pressure-packed enough that some players might grip their putters too tightly.
At Blackberry Oaks in Bristol this summer, with her dad on her bag, Miller -- who recently gave a verbal commitment to the University of Illinois -- shot a 72 to secure a berth in the U.S. Women's Amateur. The tournament, which gets under way Monday at The Country Club in Cleveland, happens to be the longest-running women's golf tourney in the country, dating back to 1895. Over 1,100 girls attempted to qualify this year at sites across the country.
It was Miller's first go at trying to earn a berth. She had another first-time golf experience in Wisconsin in June.
Playing in a U.S. Women's Open qualifier at Big Foot Country Club, she came up short of qualifying for the prestigious Open, calling her round "not good at all." Competitors played 36 holes in one day.
"It was fun. Lots of college girls there," Miller said. "It was just one of those days where I could not hit my driver. If I can't put it in play, it's not good."
But it's about more than missed fairways for Miller these days. She doesn't want to miss great opportunities to improve her already stellar game. With college a year away, she knows she needs more big-tournament experience. That explains her decision to take swings at the U.S. Amateur and U.S. Open qualifiers.
It also explains Miller's participation in last week's Illinois Open, another big-girl tournament. In her attempt to become the first high school golfer to win the tourney, she headed into the third and final round at Mistwood in Romeoville tied atop the leader board with recent Illinois graduate Nora Lucas. Miller happened to meet Lucas on her recruiting trip to Champaign earlier this year.
A final-rouand 80, however, resulted in Miller tying for 15th.
She credited "hitting fairways" and her new Cameron putter for her 1-under total through two rounds. Her final round doesn't figure to rattle her confidence, nor second-guess her decision to compete on bigger stages.
"I got to get ready for college and the rest of my career," said Miller, who owns three top-10 finishes in the IHSA state tournament in her three seasons for Stevenson's Patriots. She won the state title her sophomore year.
Miller verbally committed to Illinois in early July, after also considering San Diego State and Wichita State. The decision wasn't as easy as a tap-in putt.
Why the Illini?
"Probably the girls and the coach (Renee Slone), and it's close to home," Miller said. "It's just a great school."
Stevenson's golf great had three great options.
"(San Diego State) is beautiful and I'd love to go live out there," Miller said. "Wichita has so many different golf courses that are really close to the school, which is really nice. I'd love to go play on all of those. I wish I could combine all three (universities) into one, but I can't. So I had to pick one."
Picking putters isn't any easier.