COVINGTON, Ga. — Angelena Adams is closing in on finishing her first year as head coach of the Newton Lady Rams golf team, but she’s been around the high school game enough to know that what she has in Ally Black is rare.
Before Adams showed up at Newton to take the vacant golf coach position, she spent five years coaching at Hillgrove High School in Cobb County, where she’s seen her fair share of good golfers.
But Black, she says, is a bit different.
“I can definitely say I’ve never had a freshman who had her level of skill and talent,” Adams said. “She has an amazing future ahead of her. She can be state ranked and obviously get a scholarship. She’s worked very hard and it’s definitely paying off.”
The latest payoff for Black came when she shot a 42 on the back nine during the Newton Cup Wednesday, winning her the low medalist award for the girls’ side of the tournament, and helping the Lady Rams to a second place finish in the annual local tournament.
But maybe more impressive than her accolades-garnering score is the fact everyone who truly knows her and can see her potential feels like she could’ve played better.
That was Newton boys golf coach Rick Rasmussen’s assessment as he watched Black play in between his own squad’s action. And Black agrees.
“All season I haven’t really been playing my best, and on Wednesday I was able to finally play up to my ability,” Black said. “I think it’s because of it being my first year and being nervous playing high school golf, but Wednesday I got over that and played to my ability, but I still think I could’ve done better.”
It’s that relentless passion for improvement that Adams says separates Black from many other older golfers. It’s also starting to rub off on some of the other Newton girls players — particularly the youngest ones.
“Sometimes girls come to the game of golf as freshman and have never played before,” Adams said. “And sometimes they only play during the season. Ally doesn’t do that. She’s been playing forever, and she plays all the time, in the offseason. She’s still out there practicing when nobody else is. Even on weekends, and stuff like that goes to show others that practice doesn’t hurt.”
Adams said several other freshmen, including Tania Greene, have been taking notice and following Black’s work ethic.
“I think (Tania) is definitely starting to get that golf bug,” Adams said. “Her sister plays too, but sometimes has to miss because of work, but Tania is always there. We’ve got two other freshman other than Ally who, I think, are starting to get it now, and they’re working harder.”
For Black, the hard work started about four years ago, even before she reached middle school. Black credits her grandfather Rex Jenson for getting her to try a sport she wasn’t sure she’d be interested in.
“My grandfather plays regularly with his friends, and one day he told me I should start playing,” she said. “I was definitely one of those who thought it would be boring or didn’t really know if this was gonna be my thing. But once I started playing and hitting regularly, I started liking it.”
Now, with a little experience and success under her belt — along with her grandparents whom coach Adams calls “a great support system” — Black says she’s fallen in love with the game, and the challenges it brings.
“It’s the competition that excites me,” she said. “I like going against other teams and being able to hang with other players who are older than me, and sometimes doing better than them.”
She’s becoming a student of the game, also. She watches players like Jordan Spieth and Rory McilRoy — her two favorite golfers — and tries to emulate aspects of their games.
“Mcilroy, he’s just cool,” Black said. “He just plays his game and does it his way, and I like it. With Jordan Spieth, I like watching him putt, and it makes me want to practice my putting more. My drive is probably the strength of my game, but I work on my putting too. People think you don’t have to work on it, but it definitely makes you better.”
So does her coaching and her teammates. Black says she’s grown exponentially during her freshman season because of both, and as she strives to qualify individually for state — she tees of Monday at 8 a.m. at Monroe Golf Country Club during the Region 8-AAAAAAA tournament — she says that the feedback she receives from everyone lets her know she’s on the right path.
“It all makes me feel like I”m definitely on the verge of being really good,” she said. “But it also helps me to help our upcoming golfers. So when I become a sophomore or junior, I feel I’ll definitely be able to help them see the fun in golf and help fall in love with the game.”