Parker Perry calmly stared at the golf ball in her hand.
The MICDS senior had just three-putted a hole she could have birdied easily.
She walked slowly to the next tee box during an early-season tournament — but her gaze never left the ball cradled in her left hand.
“I had no idea why she was doing that,” recalled her mom Pamela, who was intently watching her daughter’s every move. “I couldn’t figure it out.”
There was a method to Perry’s madness.
Once a bundle of pent-up emotion on the course, Perry was practicing something she had learned in April at a golf camp in Arizona called Vision54, a high-intensity session designed to center on the mental aspect of the sport.
Perry simply was counting the dimples on her ball.
“It’s a distraction method that keeps you focused and takes your mind away from what just happened,” Parker Perry said. “And it really works."
Perry’s ability to master the mental part of her game has played a key role in her impressive campaign.
She heads to the Class 1 girls golf state tournament with plenty of clarity and confidence. She is a legitimate contender for a top-three finish when the 36-hole, two-day affair begins Monday at Fremont Hills Country Club in Nixa.
Perry learned a wealth of information at the seminar. Most importantly, she gained the ability to move past difficult times.
“It’s important to put your bad shots into perspective and tell yourself you’re human,” Perry said. “If you hit a bad shot or miss a putt, it’s easy for that to disrupt your confidence and rhythm.
"It’s very challenging — but I have gotten to a point where I have a bad hole and can come back right away and have a good one.”
Perry laughs at the reaction she gets when she goes through her dimple counting routine. Yet she takes it very seriously.
“I’ve counted to as many as 56 (dimples),” she said with pride.
The ability to stay positive has vaulted Perry from a promising golfer to a state title contender. Her new attitude has drawn the attention of college coaches around the country, as well.
“This has helped me get my game to the level where I want it to be,” Perry said.
Perry, the team captain, is brimming with confidence heading to Nixa.
She won the Class 1 District 1 tournament at Lake of the Woods Golf Course in Columbia on Oct. 8 and followed that up with an impressive win in the sectional tournament at Country Club of Missouri five days later.
She grabbed medalist honors in seven of the Rams’ eight dual matches this season. In addition, she finished sixth at the highly competitive Angel Classic while butting heads with some of the state’s top Class 2 golfers.
Perry never had any tantrums or outbursts on the course during her sophomore and junior seasons. But she would put her head down after a rough hole and let it carry over to her next few shots.
“I could tell from just looking at her face that she was upset,” MICDS coach Steve Johnston said. “I’d go over there, talk to her and tell her, ‘You can’t stomp around, you can’t hit your head real hard with your hand.”
Johnston noticed a drastic change from the outset of this season.
“Right away, I could tell that she was more solid mentally,” Johnston said. “The only thing I ever worried about with her is keeping her composure and staying focused. She’s gotten so much better at that.”
MICDS sophomore Katie Mikulec, who is also headed to state, noticed a new Perry as well.
“She doesn’t get agitated about what happens on just one hole,” Mikulec said. “She’s able to focus on the larger picture.”
Perry took up golf at age six while watching Tiger Woods compete in The Masters. She’s worked diligently on her game over the years and will be making her third successive Missouri state tournament appearance.
As a freshman, she finished second in the Virginia state tournament before her family moved to Creve Coeur prior to her sophomore season. That year, Perry placed 20th at state yet highlighted the whole tournament by making a hole-in-one on the par-3, 132-yard fifth hole during the opening round at Sedalia Country Club.
Perry practices diligently on her putting at home where she has a practice green located in the family garage. She goes out every morning and spends at least an hour knocking in shot after shot with her dog Piper fetching the few miscues.
For now, Perry has her sights set on closing her high school career with a bang.
“I’m not going to set any high expectations,” Perry said. “I just want to make sure I play to my ability and have fun on every hole.”