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All-around drive: Hart golfer Brenna Carlson

Indians junior's complete game makes her a leader by example

Posted: November 11, 2009 9:49 p.m.
Updated: November 12, 2009 4:55 a.m.

Hart High junior Brenna Carlson tees off at Valencia Country Club on Oct. 28. Carlson has made a reputation for herself around the valley with a powerful drive, which has somewhat overshadowed a solid all-around game.

 
It’s a good thing there are already divots on a golf ball.

If there weren’t, Hart High junior Brenna Carlson would probably make some.

People talk about her drives in terms of length and power.

She is the Foothill League’s unofficial yardage champion.

But like a tiny white ball getting lost in the blue sky from one of those violent drives, other things about Carlson get lost.

“I don’t mind being known as (the big hitter), but I’ve been working hard on putting and chipping,” she says modestly.

The following things get lost, according to people who know her well — her intelligence, her quiet confidence, her athleticism and her competitive nature.

They’ve all helped Carlson become one of the valley’s premier girls prep golfers.

It just so happens that the other premier players are her Hart High teammates — 2009 Foothill League Most Valuable Player Nikki Prichard, 2008 All-Santa Clarita Valley Girls Golfer of the Year Amanda Corr and 2008 Foothill League MVP Kendall Dusenberry.

Carlson can’t claim any of those titles — yet — but she was just as much of a force for the Indians in 2009 as any of her teammates.

She finished one stroke behind Prichard for MVP and was low-medalist at two Foothill League events this season.

Carlson has back-to-back 74s in team playoff competition, most recently shooting 2-over at Monday’s CIF-Southern Section Team Championship.

On Nov. 3, she tied for fourth place overall by shooting a 1-under 71 at the CIF-SS Northern Individual Regional at Soule Park in Ojai.

“She’s so mature and so intelligent that I think that also in a sense it gives her an edge on the game,” says Hart head coach Renee Onori.

Speaking of maturity, there are at least two cases where people have mistook Carlson for an older golfer.

The first was when she was in junior high.

“I see this blonde girl hitting balls on the range and (West Ranch head coach) Jeff Holen walks behind me and says, ‘She has a nice swing. Yeah, she’s a seventh-grader. And she’s going to Hart.’ (I think sarcastically), ‘Great,’” says Saugus head coach David Stradling. “She was hitting the ball better than some of girls in our league at that time.”

Carlson says she has never measured her drives, but the estimate from her and others is that they reach into the upper 200s.

Vicky Hurst led the LPGA in average driving distance in 2009.

Her average was 273.2 yards.

Yet Carlson has also relied on accuracy, confidence and hard work.

A club softball player, Carlson decided not to play travel ball this summer, instead focusing on improving her golf game.

It was the first time she had concentrated on her golf game that much.

In the past, she says, she’d put down her golf clubs after golf season and then wouldn’t pick them up again until late in the summer.

This year, she worked on all aspects of her game and reconnected with her swing coach by spending a week working on her game with him in Houston, where he currently lives.

The results have been noticeable in her scores, but also in a place that can’t be measured by strokes.

Carlson says she’s starting to think of golf in terms of her future and she is growing more passionate about the sport.

“I love it,” she says. “It’s a lot of fun. It’s gotten to the point where it’s a lot of fun — not stressful.”

The stress, she says, came from learning the game and being hard on herself.

Carlson has played softball for 10 years, golf for just four.

She is extremely competitive, coming from a sibling rivalry she has had with her older brother, Hart High graduate and Cincinnati Reds minor leaguer Shane Carlson.

Her competitive and quiet nature has also helped balance the Hart golf team, which has girls with personalities that range from intense to easygoing.

“I think the way it benefits (the team is) Amanda can be very, very intense. Nikki can at times let a bad shot affect her for more than just that bad shot. In Brenna, they realize it doesn’t have to be like that. She brings that confidence that spills into their game. It’s like a calming effect. They all know they can count on each other.”

That calming effect has a lot to do with Carlson’s quiet nature.

Both she and her brother share it.

“We’re the quieter, assertive kind of people,” she says. “We show confidence with actions instead of words.”

Carlson has done her best to assert herself as not just a big hitter, but a big-time golfer.

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