Starkville golfer Korakot Simsiriwong experienced quite a run during the summer in Optimist junior competition.
Simsiriwong, a senior at Starkville Academy, spent her summer on the golf course while advancing all of the way to the Optimist Junior Iinternational Championships in West Palm Beach, Fla.
After qualifying for the district tournament with her play locally at Mississippi State,
Simsiriwong advanced to the Optimist International out of the Alabama-Louisiana-Mississippi District. The district meet was held at Shadow Ridge Golf Course in Hattiesburg on July 14-15.
The Optimist International was a 72-hole stroke play tournament and Simsiriwong competed in the age 16-18 division. The preliminary rounds were held July 24-26 with the top 35 girls advancing to the final round on August 1.
This is the third year Simsiriwong has participated in the Optimist International, also appearing in 2005 and 2008. She had her best finish this year.
Simsiriwong came in seventh place with a four-day total of 300, which was only eight strokes behind winner ManUela Carbajo Re of Argentina.
"Playing in the 16-18 age group was more competitive because the girls around those ages already get recruited for college," Simsiriwong said. "I pretty much played with college players."
Simsiriwong shot a 76 on the first day, then 79 on day two and got back to a 76 on the third to make the cut. She saved her best for last as she carded the best score of the last day at 69 and was sent an award for her accomplishment.
Admitting she didn't play well at first, Simsiriwong received some advice by phone from swing instructor Tony Luczak.
"I was there by myself with no coaches and no parents," Simsiriwong said. "The only thing I could depend on was (Luczak) talking with me on the phone. He's helped me through the game, has been at several of my practice rounds, sees where I should plan for each hole and what I should hit. He is a really good instructor.
"I just tried to remember what he told me to do and tried to fix it after the round. I knew what I was doing wrong, but I was exhausted. The heat was awful. After the round every day, I'd get some rest, eat, get some rest and then go practice. At practice, I just tried to remember how to hit the ball straight and remember what my coach taught me."
It was an up and down tournament for Simsiriwong. She went from hitting the greens and struggling on her putting the first day to having trouble hitting greens in regulation on the second day.
Simsiriwong said she "got it back together" on the third day and managed to tackle the course well on the final day, including three birdies, to achieve the 69.
"I thought the course was very easy," Simsiriwong said. "I just tried to win the course and not necessarily the tournament."
Simsiriwong thanked the local Optimist Club for making her trip to the Optimist International possible.
"It was the Optimist Club that got the tournaments together," Simsiriwong said. "If it hadn't been for them, I wouldn't have been in Florida representing Starkville. Actually, I represented three states with Alabama, Louisiana and Mississippi (in the district)."
Golf has led to quite a bit of attention for Simsiriwong over the past year as she was nominated for the Mississippi Sports Hall of Fame's PopStar Award. Earlier this spring, she placed first in the Mississippi Association of Independent School Overall Tournament with a score of 70 at Patrick Farms in Pearl.
Luczak said the thing that makes Simsiriwong special is work ethic.
"I got here three years ago and when I saw a girl her age with such a good golf swing and puts in the time that she does, it was a surprise," Luczak said. "She's always working and I would say in the last year with her strength training and technique, that her distance has popped up two or three clubs. She's been able to hit the ball further."
Now that school has started back at Starkville Academy, Simsiriwong is concentrating on her academics and not so much on golf.
"School comes first," Simsiriwong said. "Right now, I don't have any tournaments. I've just been practicing, playing and trying to get ready for recruiting."
Simsiriwong said so far she has been recruited by Mississippi State, Louisiana-Monore and was contacted by a Division II school out of Fort Lauderdale, Fla., during the Optimist International.