By VINCE PELUSO — firstname.lastname@example.org
Lost in the euphoria surrounding Danielle Nicholson’s 2011 Division I state championship in golf was one question — how do you follow up winning a state championship as a freshman in high school?
Always one to hold herself to the highest of standards, Nicholson set out to defend her title in 2012 and did so admirably, albeit unsuccessfully.
To her, and the standard she set, the 2012 season ended in disappointment as she finished ninth at the state tournament after a final round 82 at Ohio State University’s Gray Course.
But, for those who sit back in awe of her talent, the season was again another affirmation that she is not only one of the top players in the state, but also the clearcut best player in the area as she repeats as Star Beacon Ashtabula County Player of the Year.
Despite not winning a state title again, Nicholson actually struck the ball much better than she did in 2011.
What cost her was a cold putter on the second day of the state tournament.
“Ball-striking wise, I hit it very well this year,” she said. “I just didn’t play very well on the second day in Columbus. My putting has been really letting me down this year, so I’m working on that and starting to putt better.”
With that said, Nicholson said it was hard for her not to be disappointed with her play on that second day.
“I had a lot of expectations of myself and I know I’m one of the best players in the state so it’s very disappointing to me to finish ninth,” she said. “I had expectations of myself and wanted to perform better than I did.
“I just kept hitting one bad shot after another and I couldn’t get out of it. I think if I had one birdie before the turn it would’ve been an entirely different round.”
Geneva coach Rob DiPofi said that Nicholson’s success in 2011 might’ve spoiled some of her observers.
“I would say that she kind of spoiled us all last year with what she did,” he said. “How the season ended did not detract from what she accomplished. She’s still ridiculously good. One bad round cost her a chance to be a first-team All-Ohio player this year and that’s disappointing.
“But you think about where she’s from, who you compete against and it’s still a pretty doggone good achievement.”
While her individual season ended in disappointment, Nicholson said she felt she and her Geneva teammates did better than she expected.
“This year, I did not think we would’ve advanced as far as we did losing (three seniors),” she said. “I think it’s going to be difficult next year, losing the seniors we have. It was a lot of fun to play with these girls who share my interests and love of the game.
“I really enjoyed it and it’s nice to look up at the board and care about the scores of your teammates.”
While her high school season is over, Nicholson will get a chance to end the 2012 season on a brighter note when she travels to Myrtle Beach over Thanksgiving weekend for the three-day George Holiday Junior Tournament.
“It’s a three-day tournament with three different courses and it’s my first year playing after October so it’s exciting,” she said. “I really look forward to having one last round and being able to redeem myself for that last bad round.”
The daughter of David and Linda Nicholson, the two people with whom she credits all her success, spent last offseason working and trying to improve her club head speed, something she accomplished.
She said she’ll continue to work to improve her distance as well as focus in on her shortgame.
“Working out last year I gained about seven miles per hour on my swing, I went from 87 mph to 94 mph,” she said. “I saw a little distance change on my driver, but not so much in my other clubs, so I want to keep developing that.”
Nicholson’s motivation to improve is driven by how she sees herself against the other top players nationally.
“I’m looking at my game compared to others, not just in Ohio but nationally, and they’re a little bit longer than I am,” she said. “I’d like to gain about 20 yards on my swing so I’m looking at 8 iron opposed to a 6.”
Frighteningly for her opponents, Nicholson believes her best golf is still ahead of her.
“I’m gong to play in some tournaments earlier next year, a few in February and March, so I think I’m going to have my breakout year next year,” she said.
If she needs any extra source of motivation, she won’t have to look far, just think back to that second round of the 2012 state tournament, a round she won’t soon forget.
“It’ll be on my mind for years to come ...” she said.
Peluso is a sports writer for the Star Beacon. Reach him at email@example.com.
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