As a freshman at Reagan High, Anna Howerton wasn’t sure she wanted to play on the high school golf team.
But her father gave her a nudge.
“My dad wanted me to play,” Howerton recalled.
As it turned out, Howerton’s dad probably saved himself a lot of money. His daughter has earned a scholarship to play golf at High Point University, where she will start in the fall.
She’s tuned up in the past year by winning a Carolinas Golf Association event at Mimosa Hills in Morganton and followed with Peggy Kirk Bell Tour victories at Pine Needles and Salisbury.
On June 29, Howerton won the CGA Dogwood State Junior Girls at Colonial Country Club in Thomasville, shooting rounds of 71, 76 and 72 to win by two strokes at 6-over-par 219.
Once she agreed to play at Reagan, Howerton said she felt an obligation to improve on a loaded high school team that included Morgan Ketchum, now the top player at Virginia Tech, and Wake Forest recruit Macy Pate, whose 57 two years ago made news throughout the golf world.
Howerton quickly realized she would have work to make the lineup. She soon found out Ketchum and Pate were on the practice range several hours per day.
Howerton didn’t want to shoot high scores that would hurt the team.
“They motivated me,” Howerton said. “I didn’t want to let the team down. I knew if wanted to play on the team I needed to go out and keep getting better by practicing.”
Howerton got better, emerging as the team’s No. 3 player as Reagan won back-to-back state championships.
Now, its Howerton making news.
Reagan didn’t qualify as the team for the Class 4A state tournament this fall, but Howerton made the field as an individual and finished third with a 74-69, 1-over performance at Pinehurst No. 6.
Next week, she’ll compete in the U.S. Girls’ Junior at Eisenhower Golf Club in Colorado Springs. Howerton and Pate both qualified with outstanding scores at Alamance Country Club. Pate was medalist with 64 and Howerton was third with 68.
Shooting 68 at Alamance, a Donald Ross design, gave Howerton special satisfaction. Though she’s consistent, rarely shooting 75 or above, she doesn’t post as many spectacular scores as her star Reagan teammates.
“It’s nice to be able to take it low once in a while,” said Howerton, who began working with instructor Rickey Sullivan, the director of instruction at The Ranch at Bulls Bay outside Charleston, S.C., in March.
Howerton will make the trip to Colorado with her mom, Missi. She expects to play a few practice rounds with Pate, her best friend at Reagan.
In the U.S. Girls’, players will play two qualifying rounds with the top 64 scores advancing to match play.
Given the dozens of rounds she’s played with Ketchum and Pate, who didn’t play on the high school team as a senior, Howerton doesn’t expect to be intimidated playing in the national tournament. She can drive the ball 250 yards or so – without the help from high altitude.
“North Carolina has a lot of top-notch golfers,” Howerton said.
The field at Eisenhower also will include Ellen Yu of Greensboro, who qualified with 75 at Spring Valley Country Club in Columbia, South Carolina, and Emily Mathews of Mebane, who shot 70 at Williamsburg National in Virginia.
The semifinals and championship will be televised on Peacock and Golf Channel.