In a year or two Emma Clayton may take her golf game to an American university.
For now, the 17-year-old has another year at Palmerston North Girls' High School.
But if her games keeps progressing, she could become a candidate for a university scholarship, which is a common route for promising golfers, aside from Lydia Ko.
Clayton was one of only five unbeaten players at the national interprovincial tournament at Muriwai last week and that will look good on her CV.
"I do want to go as far as I can," Clayton said. "I'll see what happens when I finish school."
Ko went straight to the moneyed game, but few New Zealand girls have the same work ethic as Ko who slaved away with huge hours practice.
Clayton has played alongside Ko and is in her eighth year of golf. She heads down to Hokowhitu after school - if nothing else has priority - usually to practice for about two hours with the junior boys.
She is coached by Palmerston North pro Stephen Wood, who said she was technically very sound, hitting the ball further and straighter. He predicted she would be hard to stop in the next 12 months, and possibly the same will apply to his other pupil, Levin's Brydie Hodge, who turns 17 in February.
Hodge was at No 1 for Manawatu-Wanganui at Muriwai and Wood described Clayton as a "national class No 2".
She played at No 1 at St Clair, Dunedin, last year, but dropping a spot took pressure off her this time and she finished with four wins and three halved matches.
"I only got nervous in one match," she said.
Twice she had to come from behind and her squared match with Wellington's highly-rated Te Rongopai Clay was the most nerve-wracking.
"Against her I was one down with three to play," she said. "I was shaking over my putts."
Clayton had to make a regulation putt to make par on the 17th but was nervous. Although she made it, knowing the entire match relied on it added to the pressure.
Her mother Sandy caddied for her at Muriwai and there was no discord there because her mother isn't a golfer.
Emma might be in her teens but she is an experienced interprovincial player. Four years ago she was the team reserve at Miramar and a year later was the No 3 at Whakatane, No 1 last year and No 2 last week.
Like so many young players she intends sharpening up around the greens, especially with her chipping.
Formerly the national under-15 champion, this year she won the Challenge Cup at Foxton and was contending in most other tournaments. Next year she will get her first chance to shape up against the country's best in the LawnMaster Classic in February.
- © Fairfax NZ News