‘One Shot at a Time’ : La Jolla junior golfer competes in state championship

By Ashley Mackin

La Jolla High School junior Daniela Anastasi just returned from competing at the CIF State Championship in golf where she placed 37th. She is also the first female golfer to make it to the state level from La Jolla High School.

But for the young golfer, it’s all about what’s next.

“I’m just excited to see what happens after this, when it comes to the college search, but also my game, to see if I can improve and score lower and play better at tougher courses, and to be a better player overall,” she said. “It has motivated me to make state next year, too, and hopefully score even lower and place higher.”

Looking beyond next year, she is also looking at how this achievement will affect her college applications. “I know I want to play golf in college, but this has solidified the idea that I can,” Anastasi said. “Now I might have options as to where I want to go; I might have my choice based on the school, not just if I’m on the team.”

It was seeing the coaches at the CIF state championships that made Anastasi realize where she was. “I didn’t feel the pressure until the actual day, when I saw the level of competition and saw the college coaches with their clipboards, taking notes on the players,” she said.

Before she made it to state, she competed with her team at the San Diego CIF Championship. From the San Diego CIF competition, she as an individual qualified for regionals. There were 144 players from across Southern California participating in the regional level, and the top players in that group qualified for state. The top 54 players in the state competed at that level.

Since this was her first year playing golf at the state level, she tried to just enjoy the experience, she said. “I knew whatever happened, I was at state, and that was what mattered ... just knowing I was there meant so much to me.”

She earned her spot by improving her short game, she said. “I was at a level where I was decent and I was playing in tournaments, but I wasn’t considered a competitor. When I switched to my current coach, Bob Townsend, within two months, my game went from (scores of) high 70s and low 80s down to low 70s.” She said she also uses a method called AimPoint, a putting strategy and way of reading the green. Mastering this skill has given her a new way of viewing the game and any possible mistakes. “Because my short game has improved a lot, I can hit bad shots (in long drives) and still recover,” she said.

In addition to her short game, Anastasi said her attitude makes a huge contribution to her game. Namely, what she calls “Zen Mode.”

“I don’t let things faze me, like another competitor or a bad shot or anything that comes up in the round, I just keep going, knowing it can always get better and always get worse,” she said.

The first time she experienced Zen Mode, it came after a long night studying for finals and very little sleep. “I didn’t have the mental capacity to think about it,” she joked. Having experienced a clear mind, focusing only on that shot at hand, she saw how much pressure was lifted off her shoulders. She also has to remind herself that she will never be perfect; another Zen Mode-esque practice that helps her.

“It’s a game of never being perfect, and that’s a hard thing for a lot of players to accept, the fact that you’ll never be perfect at it,” she said. “It’s about the want to get better and the want to shoot lower and the want to hit drives further that will create the best players.

“I just play it one shot at a time.”