April 17, 2019 1:45:23 AM
Mississippi State sophomore golfer Aubree Jones has re-learned how to think.
A Freshman SEC Academic Honor Roll honoree in 2018, Jones paced the Bulldogs this season with a team-leading 73.07 scoring average through six events and will anchor the contingent headed to Birmingham, Alabama for the Southeastern Conference Championships beginning Wednesday.
The stellar campaign comes on the heels of a freshman year in which head coach Ginger Brown-Lemm relied on the No. 5 player in the 2017 class to serve in a leadership role normally reserved for upperclassmen.
"Aubree is a superstar," head coach Ginger Brown-Lemm said. "She started off with a bang her freshman year and really carried the team last year."
But her youthful success hasn't been without issues.
As she battled through a slump of sorts last spring, Jones has revisited her time on the hardwood to further her mental game on the course.
Whereas golfers have plenty of time to reflect on decisions in between each shot, basketball forces players to flush mistakes quickly as teams fly up and down the court.
It's that scenario that Jones, a former high school basketball player, has tried to adapt on the golf course.
"You don't even have time to get mad if you turn the ball over," she said. "So just getting into that mindset, if I hit a bad shot then I've just got to turn around and go play defense and get the ball up and down. That's been really good for me."
Beyond the mental, Jones has made some physical adjustments.
Struggling through what Brown-Lemm called a "two-sided error" -- misfiring one way before overcorrecting to the opposite side, creating another sporadic shot -- Jones has spent time away from Starkville reworking her game.
Taking extra repetitions during her summer and winter breaks, Jones has slowed down her stroke through the impact zone to create a steadier swing.
"It's one thing to always be hitting a cut -- you can line up left and trust that you're going to cut it, hit it," Brown-Lemm said. "But the two-sided error is a tough one to balance and she's truly worked through that and we look (forward to) some great, great golf. She's fired up, as is everybody on the team."
Further, Jones knows she has dedicated the time to sort out her issues; now it's simply a matter of believing.
"I think the biggest thing for me when I'm hitting the ball is just trusting that my swing is where I need it to be because I know that I've put in the work and I've just got to let it happen," she said.
With a renewed swing and a sturdy mental state, Jones is prepared to lead the Bulldogs into the SEC Championships this weekend.
Individually, Brown-Lemm sees the tournament as the latest step in Jones' transition from good to great.
"I think it's still culminating into successful rounds for Aubree," she said. "Any time you have such a huge challenge to your confidence and to your ability to aggressively compete, it takes a long time and we're still paving the road for success for her."
Ben Portnoy reports on Mississippi State sports for The Dispatch.
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