Oct. 8 was not Marianne DelaCuesta’s best day on a golf course, but it was everything the Bowie High School sophomore, and Prince George’s County, needed. Her 96 set no personal or county records at the regional tournament, but it was just enough to qualify for the state championships — which finished up Wednesday at the University of Maryland — extending the total number of girls from the county making the trip to College Park to three.
It was a sign that portends a bright future for Prince George’s girls and one that brought Charles H. Flowers coach Levelle Green back to 2005, when Prince George’s had arguably more female talent than it did male.
Back then, Green said he was blessed with three talents in Airielle Dawson and sisters Nicole and Dionne West, all “players who could shoot, for the most part, mid-70s or better,” Green said.
Mid-70s are still a few swing changes away for DelaCuesta, who still has two more years to develop into the next Dawson or West. Such is not the case for Morgan Miner, a quiet girl with a booming drive and a “sky is the limit” future.
Several weeks ago, Eleanor Roosevelt coach Troy Bradbury called his former pupil, Caroline Sweet, the “highlight of Prince George’s County golf of the past 20 years.” The lofty praise makes sense. Sweet is a state champion and former record-holder of the one- and two-day totals for the state tournament. And it took just four weeks for Miner to come within a misread putt or stray drive of accomplishing something Sweet never had on her resume: a county title.
Miner shot a 78 last week at Enterprise Golf Club to take Ishmail Jabbie and Jahmar Seltzer to extra holes in the county championship. After watching Seltzer bury a 20-foot birdie putt on the first playoff hole, there would have been few to judge the freshman for wilting under pressure. But she canned hers too, eventually taking it to three holes where Seltzer edged her out.
“Now Morgan Miner,” Green said. “She’s a sight for sore eyes. She has a heart of a lion and you know what? She has game. The girl has game. I haven’t seen anyone, male or female, bring this many attributes as a freshman. This young lady seems like she came out of the woodwork. She just walked right in and established herself as elite.”
It’s odd that talent in the girls’ ranks seems to come in waves for the county. Green enjoyed his trio of Dawson and the West sisters — who, according to the coach, averaged between 36 and 38 for nine holes — from 2005-2009, and their careers coincided with Sweet’s. Now it’s Miner, DelaCuesta, and teammate Sumayah Arcusa, another freshman, at the helm, with eight combined years left between them.
“It’s going to be good,” Miner said. “The three of us can help other females a lot, spread the word a little bit.”
Spreading the word was something that nearly kept Miner off a golf course this entire season. She wanted to play for Oxon Hill, but she had coach Pua Ponafala’s wrong email address, and her inquisitions about practice and tryouts kept bouncing back. It took her until the fifth tournament to finally join the team and play in a tournament, and even then “I didn’t know anything about her,” Ponafala said. “I didn’t take her seriously. She said she had been playing for nine years and I thought ‘Yea, OK. She’ll have to prove it.’”
In Miner’s first tournament, she shot a 90, better than both Arcusa, DelaCuesta, and Flowers sophomore Allison Ambrose, another with an abundance of potential. After Miner’s score went up, a coach approached Ponafala and said “’Hey, Pua, what do you have over there?’’ To which Ponafala replied mischievously, “‘I don’t know anything. I don’t know what you’re talking about.’”
Well, the secret’s out now. Miner and her hot-pink hair have made their mark on the county golf scene, as have the rest of the girls following in her wake.
“It’s very special, what she can do,” Ponafala said. “Now that she’s under my tutelage, I don’t know. I don’t know if there’s anything that can stop her. I’ve never seen a freshman with that kind of focus, determination. They’re just very rare.”
As Seltzer was walking back to the clubhouse, his championship in hand after finally topping Miner in the third playoff hole, he pondered the future that awaits the freshman Clipper.
“It’s amazing,” he said. “When her senior year comes she’s going to be destroying everybody.”