A late start to the season hasn't stopped Alyssa Lyon from steadily climbing the ranks of the Connecticut Section PGA Junior Golf Tour.
The 15-year-old Easton resident is ranked seventh in the tour and will compete against the top 20 players in the Jack Kelly Junior Tournament of Champions at the Fox Hopyard Golf Club in East Haddam this Sunday.
The top-10 ranking marks an impressive four-year climb for Lyon. In the 2008-09 season, she just made the cut for the Jack Kelly Invitational before falling to the 25th position. Last year, she finished just outside of the top 10 with a 12th-place finish.
The steady development is even more admirable when considering that Lyon spends most of the spring with a racquet in her hand as a member of the Girls Tennis team instead of a golf club. Coming into the summer season cold requires a lot of practice, lessons with her coach, Paul Barnsley at Race Brook Country Club in Orange, and even some studying of players on the PGA Tour.
“Playing high school tennis makes it difficult to start golf early in the year,” Lyon said. “During the summer I try to golf - whether it be playing, competing or practicing – four to six times a week. I also watch a lot of golf on TV and I learn things through that. My favorite player is absolutely Rickie Fowler. I've learned some good things from him and I think that he has a great attitude towards the game. He never loses his confidence or his composure and plays each shot one at a time.”
That combination of dedication and calm demeanor has given Lyon her best performances on the Tour since she joined the CT PGA Junior Golf Association at age 11. After scoring just one top-three finish on 18-hole CT PGA Junior tournaments in three years, Lyon notched second place finishes at the PGA Pro-Junior Invitational and 18-Hole Manchester Junior Open and finished tied for third at the 18-Hole Glastonbury Hills Junior Open this summer.
“I'm pretty happy with how the season's going,” Lyon said. “I've been placing much higher up on the leader board and coming in with better scores that I have in the past. It has been challenging because there are a lot of really good girls who are shooting exceptionally well, so there is plenty of competition.”
While she may have a late start each tour season, few may be able to match Lyon's early start in golf overall.
Her father, Rick, introduced her to golf at a very young age, teaching her how to hit a golf ball at two years old. Lyon's father continued to teach her how to play until just last year when she started taking professional lessons.
Despite being introduced to game early, Lyon didn't have a desire to play competitively. That changed when she stepped on the courses in the CT PGA Junior 9-hole division at age 11. Seeing that she excelled among her peers and enjoyed the pressure situations, Lyon knew she was hooked.
“No matter how frustrating the game gets for me, I can never picture myself not playing golf,” she said. “I look forward to golf season all winter. There is just something about the game that I just love. I love when I play really well, so I guess that feeling of doing well is what makes me want to keep playing.”
The CT PGA Junior Tour has helped that love grow by providing opportunities to cut down on her golf frustrations. The tour has also allowed Lyon to build on her impressive driving skills and to focus on her putting, which she see as the main problem spot of her game.
She has also been able to sharpen her nerves. This season she competed in her first playoff. She lost the head-to-head contest, but she gained confidence that she now knows what to expect in those tense situations.
“I have a pretty good mental game,” she said. “In competition, I am able to stay composed, focused and relaxed. If I hit a bad shot, I am able to erase it from my mind so that it doesn't effect my attitude towards my next shot.”
Lyon hopes to play golf in college and continue playing competitive after graduation, but she knows that she will keep playing the sport no matter where the future takes her. The one almost certain thing is that Lyon knows who she'll play in the years ahead.
“What I also like about golf is that I can play with my dad,” she said. “It's nice to have that time to hang out with him and we always have a good time.”