David Ramsey: Cheyenne Mountain's Maxine Choi employs extreme calm to win Colorado 4A golf championship

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Photo - Maxine Choi strikes the ball during the CHSAA 4A State Girls Golf Championship at the Cheyenne Mountain Resort in Colorado Springs on Tuesday, May 22, 2018. (Photo by Kelsey Brunner, The Gazette)
Maxine Choi strikes the ball during the CHSAA 4A State Girls Golf Championship at the Cheyenne Mountain Resort in Colorado Springs on Tuesday, May 22, 2018. (Photo by Kelsey Brunner, The Gazette)

As Cheyenne Mountain High’s Maxine Choi prepared for the biggest putt of her 17-year life, she was calm.

But of course she was.

Choi has developed what seems a supernatural power to banish stress when she most needs to banish stress.

She was putting an 8-footer for the 4A golf championship at The Country Club of Colorado, her home course.

“I’m going to make it,” she kept telling herself.

And she did, draining the putt to clinch a come-from-behind victory over defending champ Lauren Lehigh of Loveland.

Choi won because of her steely refusal to get frustrated. She did this refusing despite a highly frustrating afternoon on the greens.

She lipped a 20-foot putt on No. 9. She barely missed a 22-footer on No. 10. She came achingly close to sinking a 15-foot putt on No. 12. The missed putts left her trailing by three strokes heading into No. 17.

But the missed putts did little to alter her mood. She chuckled after even the most painful misses. She never shook her fist. She never stomped her foot.

John Choi is Maxine’s father and, thus, an expert on all things Maxine.

“That’s her nature,” he said after the victory. “She’s always been calm, ever since she was young.”

Is this a family trait?

John paused and laughed.

“Um, I don’t know,” he answered. “I just think she’s special. I’m pretty hot tempered, you know.”

On 17, Choi sank an eight-footer to cut Lehigh’s lead to one. On 18, Choi hit a superb approach shot over the water, leaving her with the eight-footer she was sure she would make. Choi finished at 158 (78-80) and Lehigh finished at 159 (78-81).

She finished sixth in the 2017 4A tournament and in the offseason worked diligently on her putting and composure. She embraced a no-worry approach.

We’ll let her explain.

“This season, I’ve never really felt the nerves that I used to feel,” she said.  “I tell myself, ‘If this goes, it’s OK. If this doesn’t go, it’s OK.’ I’m not putting a lot of weight on my putt, so even if I miss it, I’m not frustrated.”

When Cheyenne Mountain coach John Carricato saw Choi’s approach shot land eight feet away from victory, he was almost certain she would make the highest of high-pressure shots. He’s marveled all season at her poise.

“That’s just who she is,” he said. “She stays so calm. She doesn’t let good or bad affect her. It’s that next shot that matters. There’s so much poise and composure. We could all learn from her. If you stay in the moment like that, you’re going to make putts.”

Choi’s is a Colorado Springs story, through and through. She was born at Memorial Hospital, and she says she plans to play next season at the University of Colorado-Colorado Springs.

After her triumph, Choi accepted hugs from her family and Cheyenne Mountain fans as she walked slowly to the clubhouse.

Once she arrived there, after the biggest victory of her life, she remained, of course, composed. She didn’t cry or shout with joy.

If you didn’t know about that clutch putt on No. 18, you wouldn’t have been able to tell if she finished first or 21st.

Outside, as always, calm.

Inside?

“I’m pretty happy,” Choi said, flashing a smile. “I’m excited, you know.”