Old habits die hard, or as the saying goes at least. Apparently it holds true for Caroline Sweet. When the girl who has been dubbed the “highlight of Prince George’s golf from the last 20 years,” is asked to play a few holes these days, she still doesn’t quite get that relaxation feeling most sink into from a few hours away from the office, or, in her case, mountains of law school readings.
“I have to get used to it still,” said Sweet, who graduated from Eleanor Roosevelt High School in 2008. “When people ask me to go play, I would say, ‘No, I just want to relax.’ And then I realize, ‘Hey, it’s just golf, I can go out and relax.’”
It’s easy to understand why Sweet can’t quite kick the habit of seeing golf through the eyes of the voracious competitor she has been since she first picked up a club at age 11. She was breaking 80 strokes by her freshman year of high school, established herself as the No. 1 player on the Raiders for the majority of her prep career, became a state champion and was the holder of just about every single possible individual state tournament record by graduation.
“We didn’t coach her,” Roosevelt coach Troy Bradbury said. “The only thing I would ever do — I just watched her. I just made sure she wasn’t making any mistakes. We would just talk about the mental game. For me, it was just sitting down and enjoying the ride.”
And what a ride it was for Sweet, who, despite being hesitant to jump back into the world of competitive golf, couldn’t exactly deny the possibility of a return somewhere down the road. In 2007, Sweet’s senior year, she shot a 68 on the opening round of the state championship — her first time ever breaking 70 in competition — which was the lowest single-round score in the tournament’s history at the time. She followed that up with a 72 for a combined score of 140, the lowest two-day total ever recorded at the time, and became the county’s first golfer to capture an individual state title since Roosevelt’s Mike Rymer did so in 1989 (he shot a 144).
“It’s rewarding, that feeling after you work so hard and it pays off,” Sweet said. “My first year I just wanted to break 80 but by my junior and senior year I knew I wanted to win it. I still would say that was my favorite tournament ever.”
Sweet only got better after she moved on from Roosevelt to the College of William and Mary. During her freshman collegiate season, she averaged a 78.30, good for sixth all-time at the school and a new rookie record. The ascent continued well into her next season when she won the opening tournament, the Bucknell Invitational, and later became the Tribe’s first player since Vickie Linkous in 1991 to win two individual titles in a season. Her 69 at the Great Smokies Intercollegiate in South Carolina that same year tied the school’s record for the lowest round ever.
“I had a blast,” she said of her career at William and Mary. “I loved it there.”
Sweet’s averages steadily dropped in her remaining two seasons, and after graduation she took a year off to work in the pro shop at Lake Presidential Golf Club in Upper Marlboro before pursuing a law degree at the University of Maryland, Baltimore County. It didn’t take long for school to stoke that competitive fire back up. She dives into books like she used to do with driving ranges and putting greens. Though she’s not entirely sure what her next step is — “there are so many things you can do with a law degree” — she says she enjoys the new challenge.
As for the clubs and the courses and the birdies and bogeys, “I miss it,” she admitted. “I’m not sure if I’ll start playing in tournaments anytime soon. If not, I’ll just keep playing on the weekends.”
Maybe one of these weekends she’ll allow herself to relax.