Reeths-Puffer's Paige Anderson leaving a lasting mark on Rocket golf program

(Photo by Eric Stur)

By Ron Rop

One of these days in the not too distant future, some college golf program is going to hit the jackpot when they sign Reeths-Puffer senior Paige Anderson.

Anderson is uncertain who that might be at this point in time, but if you talk to her high school coach, Matt Pallett, or her swing coach, Ted Tallefson, it’s evident some team is going to be very fortunate.

“Some college is going to be very fortunate to get her. I don’t think they quite under-stand,” said Tallefson, who has been working with Anderson since she was in the eighth grade. “She’s a little behind in the recruiting process.”

Why would Tallefson make those statements?

“She’s super competitive and she works harder than anyone else,” he said. “She’s able to coach herself, she can fix herself and she picks up on stuff quickly, which is helpful.

“And she’s only going to get better,” he said. “Every year she has gotten better.”

And that’s because she competes all summer long while many high school golfers only play in season.

“She practices like she plays and plays like she practices,” Tallefson said.

“She’s quite an individual,” said Pallett, who has coached the Rocket girls two sea-sons. “She’s a great kid. She’s not just a great player, but a great leader.

“She is long off the tee and good with the irons,” Pallett said. “She has all the facets of the game. With golf, at some point, those can be suspect, but man, when she’s clicking on all cylinders, she’s tough.”

Anderson’s resume is quite impressive, to say the least.

Her 18-hole scores as a senior have ranged from 69 to 81 with most of her scores sol-idly in the 70s. Her best round was a 4-under-par 69 in the Greater Muskegon Athletic Association tournament at Oak Ridge Golf Club. That led the Rockets to a 3-stroke vic-tory over runner-up Whitehall.

“That was definitely one of my best rounds,” said Anderson, who started thinking it could be a special round on the first hole (her group started on No. 12 and worked its way around to the front nine). “I thought I could go really low because I like the front nine better than the back.”

She placed first at the Whitehall Invitational, the Reeths-Puffer Lady Rockets Invita-tional, the OK-Green Conference Championship at the Ravines and, of course, the GMAA meet. Recently, she also captured the Division 2 regional title in an event that was delayed two days by heavy rain. She came back and shot a 74 to win the individual title by four strokes. The Rockets, as a team, fell just short of qualifying for state as a team in a regional, but Anderson qualified for state as an individual.

And if you ask her what the highlight has been of her senior year, you’d think she would smile and say something about shooting the round of a lifetime at the GMAA meet when she shot a 4-under-par 69.

But that’s not what came to mind. “It’s been doing so well as a team,” Anderson said. “It’s just a nice way to finish off my senior season is to have a really good team place-ment. I haven’t had that in my high school career so it was nice to finish off like that.”

“She is always complimenting her teammates and lifting them up,” said Pallett. “She does a nice job with that. And for the first time, she’s on a team that is competing and she is proud of that.”

One of Anderson’s strong suits, and there are many, is her distance off the tee. That’s a huge advantage when your chips are 40-50 yards closer to the green than your com-petitors. There have been a few golfers along the way who can match, or beat, Ander-son’s distance, but not too many.

“If my driver is good, it makes it a lot easier,” she said. “But my short game is my strength. If I need to get ‘up and down’ and I miss the green, I am able to most of the time. And my putting, I rarely three-putt, which helps a lot.”

She does intend to work hard on one aspect of her game and it’s a problem she shares with a lot of golfers - irons shots from less than 100 yards from the green.

The early-season competition prepared Anderson for the stretch drive, which included being medalist in six straight meets.

“I think I am in a better place mentally,” she said. “Before, I wasn’t really going in be-lieving I could win and now I realize maybe I can go in and win.”

Not bad for a young lady who wasn’t all that interested in the game when her Dad put a golf club in her hand for the first time at the age of 2. She started with putting and began expanding her game along the way. She said she really got serious about the game as a freshman.

“I just did it for fun before that,” said Anderson, who did compete in several youth tournaments through the years, but didn’t care too much about golf. “I went to go meet new people and make friends then freshman year came and I started placing and I thought I’m actually kind of good at this.”

As a freshman, Anderson said the Rocket team was young and quite average. That group of four freshmen dwindled down to just one – Anderson.

And the impact Anderson had on the Rocket program, as well as the disappointment of getting so close to reaching the state finals as a team, will have a lasting effect on the program.

“Although it is tough to see, it was good to see the disappointment in the team when we missed going to state by 2 strokes,” Pallett said.

At the state finals, Anderson was in 13th place after Day 1 after shooting an 80. On Day 2, she vaulted into third place with a round of 4-under par 68.

And Anderson can partially be credited with that impact on the Rocket program.

“Losing Paige next year is going to be a big hit,” Pallett said. “But her legacy will last for a long time.”



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