On Aug. 7, Munster sophomore Rachel Jones played the best 18-hole round of golf in her life, providing a tremendous boost of confidence that has carried over to this season.
Jones fired a 79 at the New Prairie Invitational at Legacy Hills in LaPorte, the first time she had ever shot under 80 in competition.
That 79 marked a tremendous improvement from Jones' freshman season, when she would typically shoot in the 90's. Now, she has cut approximately 10 strokes off her score, carding typical scores in the 80's this season.
"Since my freshman year, I've improved on my fairway shots and my driver," Jones said. "They've been going straighter for me. Lowering my scores helped me gain more confidence."
That's one of the biggest physical aspects of Jones' game that Munster coach Bill Smitka has noticed.
"When she's swinging right, she's capable of putting up really good scores," Smitka said. "I think she's a little more consistent, and that comes with experience from knowing the courses we play. She would probably tell you her weakness is her putting and short game."
Jones put in plenty of time working on her short game since last season, practicing it several times per week. She also played in the Northwest Indiana Junior Golf Association this summer, another huge reason for her better scores.
A golfer since she was 6 years old, Jones honed her game under the guidance of her grandfather, Dan Chubrich. Though Chubrich doesn't coach Jones the way he did a few years ago, she's still grateful to him for her growth in the sport she loves.
"It's great," Jones said. "I can share my goals with him, and he helps me. Me and him always play together, so it's awesome."
Smitka has also noticed a tremendous amount of maturity in Jones, even though she is still fairly new to the high school golf scene.
"She's just gotten better and better," Smitka said. "She's a great competitor and she's got a great attitude. She's always got a smile on her face, even when she's playing poorly.
"She just does everything that a coach can ask."