June 26, 2014

Let her drive: Satterfield's rise could benefit North Murray

Some 9-year-olds want a four-wheeler. Savannah Satterfield wanted a golf cart.

More specifically, Savannah — the Chatsworth resident was a fifth-grader at the time — wanted to chauffeur her father Wayne around the course when he played.

That was fine with her dad, but he put a condition on her request. If she wanted to drive, she had to start playing. Not too long after that, Savannah wanted her own golf cart to drive around the neighborhood with friends. Dad put conditions on that as well.

“He told me that he would get me my own golf cart if I shot par,” Savannah said.

Dad didn’t think he’d have to worry about buying a cart under those terms. His daughter proved him wrong soon after, and she has gone well beyond that early achievement.

Savannah has her own golf cart now, and as she approaches her 14th birthday, she is quickly becoming one of the state’s top junior golfers.

Last week at the Georgia Girls Championship, Satterfield shot a final round 5-over-par 77 at the Standard Club in Johns Creek to finish tied for 22nd with a three-day total of 244 in the 54-hole Georgia State Golf Association tournament. Although it’s hard to compare scores on different courses, Savannah’s final round of 77 — she opened with an 84 and had an 83 in the second round — would have equaled a third-place finish at this year’s Georgia High School Association Class 3A tournament and would have had her tied for first in Class 4A.

Of course, she’s not actually in high school yet.

Savannah will be a freshman at North Murray this school year, though, and if her play remains consistent, she could soon be the area’s top high school golfer — boy or girl. She will be joined at North Murray by cousin Shelby Satterfield, an accomplished junior golfer who will also be a freshman and expects to play for the Lady Mountaineers next spring.

That has Savannah ambitious not only about her individual potential but the team’s during the next few years.

“I am very excited about playing high school golf,” Savannah said. “One of my teammates (junior Emily Brogdon) came over to the house the other day to let my dad work with her on her swing, and Shelby is my neighbor so we were talking about playing together next year. Our big goal is winning a state title.”

Savannah, who hopes to earn a college scholarship because of golf, has met her goals regularly so far. From the golf cart to playing at the next level of amateur golf, the results will probably be the same — she will get what she wants.

“I have already thought about college a lot,” she said. “I am not sure where I will go, but it is definitely my plan to play golf in college.”

But it hasn’t all been as natural of a progression as it may appear. There have been hurdles she has had to jump as she has aged and grown. She went through a growth spurt last year and stretched her frame to 5 feet, 8 inches, and it required a major adjustment of her game.

“Changing clubs was a big change that I had to go through, getting the right length in the shaft and the weight of them,” she said. “I got a lot stronger, and a big part was just learning to control it. The taller I got and the longer your arms are, there is a lot more room for error.

“It was pretty frustrating. I have always had an issue with being long with my swing, and then I was getting much too long. It would be a big mistake. It is definitely pretty hard to reinvent your swing.”

Russ Allstun, the head golf professional at the Dalton Golf and Country Club and a member of the PGA of America, has been working with Savannah since she was 12. He said it was a journey to get used to the changes she went through.

“At one time, it was so easy for her,” Allstun said. “As her body grew and her swing changed, she didn’t understand what the club was doing. Now she knows her golf swing and she knows what to do when she is in trouble. She is a worker. As she has grown, she has become an all-around great player.”

Her success at the state junior tournament has given her a big boost heading into high school. While the Georgia Girls Championship was open to golfers ages 9-18, plenty of competitors in the 49-player field were either upperclassmen in high school or college bound.

“It did give me a lot of confidence,” Savannah said. “Most of them were a lot older than me, When I was able to finish ahead of some of those players, it gives me a boost to think that I am at a level that may be a little higher than I thought.”

Allstun agreed.

“There are not any girls that are in her age (locally) that are really close to her level,” he said. “She is far ahead of most girls. I teach a lot of girls, and her skill level and her body and her swing is a little bit ahead. When you see her swing on video, I use her as a model for other girls.”

Before starting high school later this summer, Savannah has a full schedule of tournaments around the Southeast. She recently returned from a tournament in Knoxville, Tenn., and the travel doesn’t bother her since she enjoys the new experiences, the different courses and the players she gets to meet.

“I get excited about meeting people from places I have never played with,” she said. “I have played with people from the Philippines, Australia and South Africa. It is fun to meet new people, and you get to talk to people over 18 holes and find out about them. It’s fun.”

With continued success, it should be even more fun.

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