Andover’s Haley Tollette has improved her golf game this spring by methods slightly less unusual than Carl Spackler used in “Caddyshack.”
An honor student with enough credits to graduate high school early, Tollette instead pressed pause, moved to Florida to play golf all winter and returned to finish her final trimester.
She climbed to No. 6 in the May 17 edition of the Minnesota Golf Coaches Association High School rankings, in part by heeding her grandpa’s advice and staring at trees.
Tollette helped Andover reach the Class 3A state tournament the past two seasons. This spring she might have to go it alone. The Section 7 tournament begins Saturday at Grand National Golf Course in Hinckley.
She spoke with Star Tribune reporter David La Vaque about her family’s rich golf history, her postseason tournament goals and how staring at trees keeps her relaxed.
Q: What went into your preparation for a strong senior season?
A: I took the second trimester off school and my parents and I went to Florida for most of the winter. I could’ve graduated at the end of the second trimester, but I wouldn’t have been eligible to play high school golf this year. I’m the youngest child and my parents were planning to move anyway, so we bought a house down there. I left around December 1 and we came back in time for third trimester, which started March 1. So I became an 18-year-old snowbird.
Q: Where in Florida?
A: We have a house on Fort Meyers beach. My dad, Jeff, is the golf pro at Rum River Hills and he talked to my lessons coach, Peter Krause, and we just so happened to buy our house next to the course that he was working at. So I got to get lessons through him at the Wilderness Country Club. My struggle last year was my short game — probably 100 yards and in. So it was nice to work on that all winter long.
Q: Was your dad the person who introduced you to the sport?
A: Yes, him and my grandpa. His name is Richard Tollette and he ran Bunker Hills Golf Course for 44 years. And my uncle, Jon Tollette, is a golf pro. My aunt, Jenny Tollette, is going to get back into the golf business soon. And I have two sets of older brothers who are twins. They all golfed, too.
Q: Does going to play at Minnesota State make you the person in your family to golf at the highest level?
A: Other than my aunt Jenny, I will be. She went to Rollins College in Florida and played golf. She won the [National Golf Coaches Association Small College] national [team] championship. She’s kind of who I look up to.
Q: When you’re on your game, what do you do well?
A: I’ve always been able to hit the ball longer than any girl I’ve ever played with except [former Andover teammate] Sierra Langlie. With my short game being so much better, I can play the back tees from about 6,000 yards instead of 5,400 and still shoot relatively the same score.
Q: In what ways have you improved your mental game?
A: This year I’ve had the tenacity to finish my round. The last two years, things always went well until hole number 15 or 16 and then I mentally unchecked myself and got out of my rhythm. My grandpa told me that if I stare at a tree, it’s really calming. So yes, I stare at trees on a golf course. Five or 10 seconds and it keeps me calm. I started doing it to make him happy, but then I noticed it was working and I was playing better.
Q: What goals have you set for yourself in terms of the postseason?
A: This year I want to win sections. I was second to Sierra the last two years. Then if I make to state, which if I win sections I will, I’m hoping for top 10 this year.
David La Vaque