Having stepped into a batter's box long before she ever stepped onto a tee box, Josey Roberts gained strength swinging a softball bat that helps her swing a driver mightily.
The Ozark freshman has become an immediate phenom while outdistancing her peers with booming drives of up to 265 yards.
"She can pound it out there and that's a big attribute at a lot of the courses we play," Lady Tigers coach Daniel Mullis said.
Roberts tamed the front nine at Rivercut Golf Course last week to the tune of a one-under par 35 in Ozark's dual win against Nixa. Her round was 11 strokes better than any of her teammates or competitors.
As much as Roberts' softball background has helped her, it also made for an obstacle she had to overcome and admittedly still has to overcome.
"I had both a golf swing and softball swing in one when I started," Roberts said. "It was very hard (to work out) for a couple years. It took a few hours of practice a day every day every week. Sometimes, it still comes out."
"Being a former baseball player, I feel they kind of go hand in hand. But it is a different swing plane," said Mullis, while comparing a golf swing to a baseball swing. "Josey's talented, but also works and works and works. That's the reason she has progressed this quickly from the time she picked up her first club and worked her softball swing out."
Roberts picked up a club for the first time only four years ago with no expectations.
"My Mom and Dad both golf," she said. "But I played other sports, like softball, gymnastics and volleyball. I thought I would give golf a try and it worked out."
Roberts took a strong liking to her fate resting solely on her shoulders in golf, compared to wins and losses in softball being determined by a team. Quickly, golf replaced softball for her over the summer months.
Roberts has honed her craft while competing in Southwest Missouri Junior Golf Association and American Junior Golf Association tournaments.
As a 14-year-old this summer, she was runner-up in the 16-18 year-old girls division at the SMJGA Championship, the Springfield Junior City Championship and the Millwood Jr. Masters. She won the 13-15 year-old division at the Horton Smith Masters in June.
Roberts took part in a qualifier at the American Junior Golf Association's Bass Pro Shops/Payne Stewart Junior Championships at Buffalo Ridge Golf Course in Hollister in August. She shot eight-over par while playing with many of the nation's elite teens.
"It was really fun to see how good they were, learn from them and see what it takes to get there," Roberts said.
Roberts' Ozarks debut saw her card a 74 and finish third at Camdenton's Lady Laker Invitational on Aug. 31.
Her aforementioned round at Rivercut saw her collect three birdies and two bogeys.
"I'm kind of up and down," Roberts said. "I have some holes in which I get a little sideways. But that happens. You've got to forget about the hole, continue on and keep your focus on the next shot.
"I think (the round) went pretty good," she added. "I thought (beforehand) about shooting par or a couple over. I didn't expect to shoot one-under."
"The good thing about her is she can control the ball around the course," Mullis said. "She's going to have those days, like we all do, in which her swing just doesn't swing right. But you just have to grind. She doesn't spray it a whole lot. She can stay within a round. She's going to have some birdies and bogeys, that's just golf. But she gets a lot of pars. That will keep her scores low."
Roberts' older brother, Hudson, capped his freshman baseball season in the spring by delivering a game-winning RBI single in Ozark's 7-6 victory versus Carthage. A promsing shortstop, he gave Arkansas a verbal commitment in August.
Josey appears well on her way to making her freshman season just as momentous.
"I'm hoping to place in every tournament and get to State," she said.
"Her expectations are higher than mine," Mullis siaid. "That's (a tribute to) how hard she wants to work and the goals she has."
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