Julia Shaw always has been a good golfer, but she wanted to be even better.
She went about doing that in the summer months and is reaping the rewards of her off-season dedication to that goal.
The Mercy High School senior and all-area player is shooting sub-80 rounds consistently and averaging 76 strokes per 18 holes.
“I worked really hard, because I knew this year we would be a work-in-progress team,” Shaw said. “I knew I had to step up. My goal was to be the No. 1 and try to lead my team the best way I could.
“In doing that, I had to put forth all the effort. It did come; it shows now. I do think I’ve improved.”
Shaw has been a contributing member of the Mercy varsity team for four seasons now, but she has a bigger role as a senior and the most veteran player.
In the past, there were other players of equal ability, but she’s the undisputed top player now.
“I was always the younger one on the team, and it’s definitely different this year, being that leader and captain,” she said.
“You always had backup. It was like, ‘OK, Erica (Heath) or Carolyn (Bland) has my back.’ I have to step up for my team this time and show them what hard work leads to.
“I try and teach the girls a few things here and there. I don’t want to be overbearing. It’s definitely different. It’s a different view of the team.”
New coach helps
Shaw and Mercy coach Vicky Kowalski attribute much of her improvement and consistently lower scoring to a new personal coach.
Shaw began working this summer with Jordan Young, the director of instruction and teaching professional at Fox Hills Golf Course.
He has helped the Farmington Hills resident bring added discipline to her game and her mental approach to the sport.
“There’s a goal every week that I have to do for putting, chipping or full swing,” Shaw said. “If I don’t reach my goal, then I can’t meet with him.
“It’s just a lot of hard work. It’s more disciplined, and I think it’s helped my game a lot.”
Shaw, who hits the ball an average of 242 yards off the tee, has seen the biggest difference in her putting.
“If I get two or three putts, it’s like next week I can’t have more than that,” she said. “It seems like every week I’m having fewer and fewer putts.
“I track how many times I’m up and down and how many greens I’m hitting. I just make a goal and every week I have to beat it. He’s helped me plan that out.
“It’s almost like a different game I’m playing now. Before, it was like, ‘OK, I got a bogey.’ Now it’s, ‘I got a bogey! I have to get a birdie on the next hole!”
Better mental game
Shaw also has gained added confidence in herself and her game with the special instruction from Young.
“I’m just much more relaxed, and that has helped me a ton,” she said. “Before, when I was going into a tournament, you could see the whites on my knuckles I was so nervous.
“He really believes in me. That push he’s giving me just makes me feel like I’m a better player, and that’s why I feel more relaxed.”
Besides putting and being able to get out of trouble quickly, Shaw has become a lot tougher mentally with just added maturity and playing experience.
“The mind game is also really strong,” she said. “It wasn’t the first two years of high school, and that really beat me down. That made me realize golf is 80 percent a mind game. That’s definitely has gotten stronger, which helps a lot.”
A change of sports
At one time, Shaw thought her future was in tennis. As a Mercy freshman, she played No. 3 doubles with Christy Snyder. The duo won Catholic League and regional championships and made it all the way to the state semifinals.
Shaw, who had played golf as long as she had tennis, decided to concentrate on being a golfer after her freshman year.
“It was always my dream to play tennis in college,” Shaw said. “There’s so much drama with tennis. Golf is just a different game. I had more fun pretty much.
“The girls on the golf team showed they wanted me on the team. They looked out for the freshmen, and it wasn’t like that on the tennis team.
“I was thinking tennis doesn’t seem like my game. Playing for coach Kowalski, I loved golf. It drove me to play better golf, seeing the seniors and how great they were. I just had a change of heart. It was like, ‘I have to do this.'”
Shaw found that golf was a better fit for her. It suited her personality and temperament better.
“In tennis, you’re playing against someone from a different school, and it’s like, ‘We have to beat these girls,'” she said. “It’s like you’re enemies with them.
“In golf, I’ve met girls from all over, and we’ve become great friends. It’s just a different way.”
Look to the future
Shaw is the third of three sisters to play golf at Mercy, following in the footsteps of Allison and Kelsey. She laughed and said, ‘Yeah, I would say so,’ when asked if she was the best of the bunch.
Shaw will certainly play golf in college and is considering a number of scholarship offers. Her top four schools are Butler, Belmont, Tampa and the University of Detroit Mercy.
In three of four 18-hole events this season, Shaw has made the all-tournament team with scores in the 70s. In a loaded field at Twin Lakes, she shot a solid round of 77 in the other tournament and tied for 13th place.
Shaw hopes to be the medalist in the upcoming Catholic League tournament and regain the title she won two years ago. Heath, her former teammate who now plays at UDM, won it last year.
“That’s probably my biggest goal in the next couple weeks, to win that,” she said. “I just have to focus on my individual game and be positive about it, going in being confident and knowing I can win it.”