Type A Brighton all-state golfer taking relaxed approach to senior year

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BRIGHTON — The pressure to excel can be overwhelming for someone with a golfing pedigree like Brighton senior Maggie Pietila.

The last name alone brings a high level of expectation, as she’s the fourth in a line of all-state sisters to make an impact in the Brighton program.

But most of the pressure is self-inflicted.

On balance, being a Type A personality has been a good thing. The demands Pietila places on herself have helped shape her into a two-time all-stater who has upheld the family legacy begun by sister Emmie in 2007 and continued by Hannah and Annie.

But sometimes being too hard on herself gets Pietila into trouble on the golf course. It’s something Brighton coach Paul Parsell has stressed to her ever since she arrived on the high school scene ready to make her own mark on the program three years ago.

“A lot of people put pressure on themselves,” Parsell said. “She probably just puts a little extra on there. Sometimes it affects her play. She’s a great athlete, a great player. She sometimes gets a little too up, a little too down in certain situations, so that kind of hinders her. She’s always struggled with the emotions of the game. She has done some maturing over the course of the summer. I’m hoping to see that in some low scores for her this year.”

Pietila seems to have taken her coach’s message to heart, recognizing that her toughest trials on the course aren’t always from tee to green, but inside her own head.

“I spent so much time putting so much unnecessary pressure on it,” Pietila said Tuesday after shooting 77 to place fourth in the Kensington Lakes Activities Association preseason tournament at Kensington Metropark Golf Course.

“I think that’s affected my golf a lot in a bad way. So, I’m just trying to relax and enjoy it, and hopefully that will shave some strokes.”

Asked what her goals are for her senior year, Pietila didn’t give the answer one would expect from a player who could contend for a state championship and earn a major college scholarship.

Instead, her response stressed the basics of why she fell in love with golf in the first place.

“I want to play my best and I want to have a really fun time,” Pietila said. “I get to play with my little sister (Abbie) on the team with me. She’s a freshman, so it’s really fun. I want to have an overall fun season. I don’t want to have any pressure. I want to just enjoy my golf, which I don’t usually do. I want to enjoy my golf and have fun; that’s my main focus.”

Pietila comes into her final high school season hoping to find her game after a rough summer playing tournaments throughout Michigan. She shot 87-85 in the Michigan Women’s Amateur and 88-83 in the Golf Association of Michigan Women’s Championship.

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“I played a lot,” she said. “I didn’t play well, but I played a lot. With colleges and recruiting and talking to coaches, it was a lot of pressure. I made it a lot worse for myself and I didn’t play well. That’s why I want to relax and have fun.”

Pietila played Tuesday in the KLAA’s top threesome with Plymouth’s Bridget Boczar and Northville’s Samantha Coleman. Boczar was the medalist with a 68 and Coleman was second with a 70. The group cruised through 18 holes in three hours, 25 minutes.

“I know the girls really well,” Pietila said. “We’ve played together for a long time, so it was fun. I felt like I didn’t play very good compared to how they were playing, but it was good to see good golfers. It was good to play with them. You can always learn from people you’re playing with.”

Brighton played with the minimum of four golfers, placing third out of 12 complete teams with a 353. Plymouth won with a 300 and two-time defending state champion Northville was second at 311.

Teams could use only five golfers, instead of the usual six, because tournaments are limited to 72 total golfers as part of the Michigan High School Athletic Association’s COVID-19 guidelines. Freshman Abbie Pietila was pulled just before tee-off because of a sore back, leaving Brighton with four players.

Amelia Gatti shot 86, Lilly Stolz 89 and freshman Lauren Forcier 101 for Brighton. Howell had two players who weren’t able to complete their rounds, so the Highlanders didn’t have a team score. Jillian Smith led Howell with a 104. Hartland didn’t compete because the high school is in the middle of a 14-day shutdown that includes athletic competition and practices.

KLAA preseason girls golf

Team scoring: 1. Plymouth 300; 2. Northville 311; 3. Brighton 353; 4. Salem 371; 5. Livonia Stevenson 375; 6. Canton 411; 7. Belleville 411; 8. Livonia Franklin 417; 9. Novi 425; 10. Livonia Churchill 453; 11. Dearborn Fordson 489; 12. Westland John Glenn 536. Howell had only 3 finishers and Hartland did not play.

Contact Bill Khan at wkhan@gannett.com. Follow him on Twitter @BillKhan.

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