Having already won an individual state title her junior year, and placed second in state in both her freshman and sophomore seasons, Murray County High School golfer Tori Owens said all she could do was smile when approached with expectations of another state title.
“Around here people just know me as that girl who’s good at golf, and they’re expecting me to win,” Owens said. “I had people coming up to me saying they were expecting me to win. I just told them I’d do my best, and once the round starts I’d just try to get in the zone. It didn’t really feel like I won state by seven strokes this year, but I did.”
Playing at Arrowhead Pointe Golf Course in Elberton in the Class 3A state championship on May 20-21, Owens shot a 72 and 73 in her two rounds for a 1-over-par 145 to capture her second straight individual state title, beating out 53 other golfers. The Murray County senior, who admittedly avoids as much risk on a golf course as she can manage, also won her fourth straight area title this season.
Even more than in the state championship, Owens said she felt the pressure most in the area competition with other girls from northwest Georgia. In high school golf, teams and players are grouped into four areas in each classification instead of regions. Murray County is in Area 4, which includes mostly north Georgia high schools.
“My goal going into high school was to win area all four years,” Owens said. “It’s like winning region. That’s probably one of my biggest accomplishments because that was my goal. With state, I actually didn’t care as much, but with the area I felt like I had to win.”
Owens learned the game from her father, Lee Owens, who would take his daughter along for rounds of golf when she was a young girl. Owens’ mother, Wendy Owens, would often join the father and daughter pair on Saturday mornings, and it was on the fairways of Spring Lakes Golf Club in Chatsworth where Owens first found her love of game.
It was during Owens’ middle school years that Lee Owens said he he first saw a shift in his daughter’s approach to the game.
“She enjoyed the game even when she was young, but she really got self-motivated in about seventh or eighth grade,” Lee Owens said. “I think in middle school when she started competing in different tournaments there were a couple of older girls who were better than her. I think that motivated her to get better.”
Owens began her competitive golfing career playing local nine-hole tournaments and has played on multiple junior tours during her high school career, in addition to playing for Murray County. When she wasn’t swinging a club, Owens was a four-year participant in the school theater program while also taking college classes through dual enrollment at Dalton State College and North Georgia Technical College.
Just before leaving to head to the state golf championship, Owens found out she was named Murray County’s valedictorian for the class of 2019. Owens wrote her valedictory speech while at the state championship golf course.
“I kept my speech short and sweet, because it was about 97 degrees out there for graduation,” Owens said.
Rain or shine, Owens says she never takes more than a few days off from practicing her golf swing. The Owens family lives behind the No. 4 hole at Spring Lakes, a 511-yard par-5 when played from the blue tees, which are the farthest back a golfer can tee off on from the course. Owens, along with her father, has developed an efficient practice routine for the high school student with so much already in her schedule.
The right-handed-swinging Owens will play five holes, using three balls, and according to Lee Owens the abbreviated practice round will take his daughter a little more than an hour to complete. The most used loop on the course for this mini-round is holes No. 3 through No. 7., and with two par-5s, two par-4s and one par-3, the compressed round gives Owens a chance to use every club in her bag.
Tori Owens said she learned everything in the game from her father, but Lee Owens was quick to point out the work Chris Owens — no relation — and Lowell Fritz have done with his daughter. Owens has taken lessons from both men at the Dalton Golf & Country Club and according to her father, the separation of advice on the game has been well worth it.
“I can tell her one thing and they can tell her the same thing just in a different way, and she listens to them,” Lee Owens said jokingly. “That’s just how it goes.”
This fall Owens will attend Kennesaw State University on a golf scholarship, where Lee Owens suspects his daughter will enjoy the team aspect of college golf. During her four years at Murray County, Owens has been the only female golfer to compete for the school.
Golf is inherently an individual sport, but Owens shows no hesitation when talking about the solo aspect of the game. Gaining distance on her drives and long irons is a goal for the next level, as she regularly practices from the men’s tee box. The confidence she speaks with, whether with a driver or putter in her hand, is an insight to the mindset needed to succeed on the golf course.
“It’s kind of been a very independent thing for me ever since I was young,” Owens said. “But I’m an only child so I’m used to it. It kind of works out because I can get my mind focused by itself, because you’re not going to have the same people playing with you every time.
“I play the golf course, and if I happen to win then I happen to win. That’s been my motto. I have to be confident with every club. You have to be like that, because if you think a certain club is a weakness then you’re obviously going to hit it bad. You have to play with confidence with every shot, and that’s just been my mindset.”