Peyton Cusick is not a fan of the quiet side of golf.
“I still like to talk while I play. I can't play quiet golf. I have to have someone to talk to,” the Marquette junior standout said. “Usually, I'll have a song in my head and that usually calms me down and clears my mind. I like a little bit of country and pop.”
Cusick hopes to keep making sweet music Monday morning when she tees off with the final group of No. 1 golfers in the Class 4 District 2 girls golf tournament at Woods Fort Golf Course in Troy.
Cusick will enter the district tournament on a major roll after firing a sizzling 1-under-par 71 to win the Suburban Conference Yellow Pool tournament championship by four strokes Sept. 28 at Crescent Farms Golf Club.
“It was actually a really big relief,” she said. “A couple days before, I had a not-so-great match, so I was kind of a little nervous leading into conference. But I just put my work in at the range and I went out and shot even on the front and 1 under on the back.”
The conference showing marked Cusick's first under-par round in a tournament in her high school career and she did it with an exclamation point at the end.
“I had to sink a par putt on 18 to save the 1 under. Luckily, I did,” she said. “I was pretty excited and all the girls I was playing with were supportive.”
Marquette coach Kyle Devine could tell his standout was in a zone that day.
“Being a team event, you kind of float around and see everybody and when she's going, you just kind of let her do her thing,” he said. “You pop in and give her a little bit of advice, but she knows when she's on fire. It was really her best full round of the season.”
Cusick has seen success at the district level and beyond her first two seasons.
As a freshman, she finished second. Last year, Cusick tied for seventh within a top 10 that will have many of the same players she will see Monday at Woods Fort.
“I try to think of it like any other tournament,” Cusick said. “Just don't go into it with a bunch of pressure on yourself.”
At the Class 2 state tournament two years ago, Cusick placed 37th, which was good enough to be the highest finish among the seven freshman at state that year, although she said she was disappointed by her score those two days.
With inclement weather forcing last year's Class 4 state tournament into a one-day free-for-all, Cusick carded an 83 to finish in a tie for 17th place, one agonizing stroke away from a top-15 finish and all-state status.
“That was especially disappointing because it was my last two holes that day that kind of blew up a bit,” she said. “I think I had two doubles in a row, so it was not a great finish. Honestly, if I would have even just bogeyed both of them, I probably could have made all-state.”
That disappointment has served as a motivating factor this season for Cusick.
“That's kind of part of her maturity, realizing what it takes to get there and then keeping your mental game there throughout the entire round,” Devine said. “Now she knows she can fully be confident knowing she's going to score those low scores, so now it's about staying calm and sticking to your game.”
With the sectional round having been eliminated prior to last season, the district tournament now is the gateway to a state berth.
The top two teams, along with the top 12 individuals (and ties) not on one of those teams, advance to the Class 4 state tournament Oct. 18-19 at Rivercut Golf Course in Springfield.
“St. Joe's is top class, but looking at the scores from the area, I really think we can have a good showing,” Devine said. “I think we can definitely compete for that second place. The goal is definitely to try and get a team to state, which we haven't done in a couple years at Marquette (2016 was the last time).”
If the Mustangs can't make it to state as a team, Cusick is still overwhelmingly likely to qualify as an individual. Either way, she is heading into the stretch run playing what she and her coach both feel is the best golf of her high school career.
“This last summer, I feel like I improved a lot. I had one bad round the whole summer. Ever since then, it's just been pretty consistent,” Cusick said. “My putting has definitely improved. I putt on a putting mat in the basement when I have time. And I go to the range and practice every single day. So, I feel like I've been putting the time and effort into it. That definitely helps with the lower scores.”