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(Scott Sommerdorf | The Salt Lake Tribune) Bingham golfer Sirene Blair prepares Saturday for the state championship. Just last month, Blair finished second at the Glenmoor Open with a 68, hitting from the black tees and competing against men. She competes in national junior tournaments and is a sure future Division I golfer, perhaps one day an LPGA pro.
Prep girls’ golf: Bingham’s Sirene Blair carving her own expectations

Bingham’s Blair steadily manages lofty expectations.

First Published May 12 2012 09:41 pm • Last Updated May 14 2012 09:24 am

Sandy • It’s not just Sirene Blair’s soaring 300-yard drives that make her devastating to compete against. It’s not just her pinpoint mechanics or her putts that so often find the right path to the hole.

Many 17-year-olds cringe after a bad shot, or mutter under their breath, or maybe even let their clubs fly. Not Blair — when she knocks a ball into the rough, she doesn’t let her emotions pour out. The junior’s face is a blank slate: always steady, always even-keeled.

At a glance

State golf tournament schedules

1A boys » South Gate (St. George), Monday, 9 a.m.

1A/2A girls » South Gate (St. George), Tuesday,9 a.m.

3A girls » Dinaland (Vernal), Monday, 9 a.m.

4A girls » Wasatch Mountain State Park (Midway), Mountain Course, Wednesday, 8 a.m.

5A girls » Wasatch Mountain State Park (Midway), Mountain Course, Wednesday, 1 p.m.

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It’s how her father taught her to play the game.

"You see some people fall apart when things go wrong," Blair says. "My dad always got mad when I slapped myself for a bad shot. He says it’s important not to show weakness."

Among her high school peers, Blair virtually stands alone. The Bingham junior has won the past two individual Class 5A state tournaments, leading the Miners to a team title both times.

But she’s not just a outstanding high school golfer — Blair is a prodigy.

She won the first tournament she ever entered when she was 11. At 14, she was winning tournaments against amateurs with years of experience.

Just last month, Blair finished second at the Glenmoor Open with a 68, hitting from the black tees and competing against men. She competes in national junior tournaments and is a sure future Division I golfer, perhaps one day an LPGA pro.

"My dad likes to say it’s like having Michael Jordan on your basketball team," senior Bingham teammate Amanda Acton says. "She’s an awesome golfer, but also so humble. You almost want to hate her for being so good, but she’s so nice you just can’t."

With the start Blair has had to her career, golf observers in Utah have developed some astronomical expectations for her. Blair has similar aspirations — she would love to go pro — but she’d appreciate it if people would stop comparing her to Michelle Wie.

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"It gets a little frustrating," says Blair, who is of Korean descent. "I love winning, and that’s part of the game, but I can’t be everything other people expect me to be."

The soft-spoken teen has a rich array of interests outside of golf. Before tournaments, she’ll dig herself into a Vampire Academy novel with her iPod headphones plugged in. She loves to draw and paint: One of her works was almost featured on the cover of Bingham’s art magazine.

She’s not booked every weekend with tournaments — Blair goes to the movies, goes to parties, has friends who aren’t golfers. And although she says she’ll probably go to a college where she can golf year-round, for now, winter brings a necessary break to her cycle.

"It’s kind of my sanity relief," Blair says. "It actually helps me appreciate golf more when I get back in the spring."

If anything, being on Bingham’s golf team has helped her gain some normalcy in her life. Although her teammates aren’t all college-bound, many of them share the same bond with the game — a sport they first played with their fathers. The Miners practice at least four days a week, and the time they spend together has helped them become as much a team as any other, despite playing an individual sport.

Girls’ golf has been a sanctioned UHSAA sport for only five years, barely a blink before Blair came on the scene. The Miners have been at the forefront of the sport’s rise: In only a few seasons, many of the players have gone from being near novices to shooting in the 80s.

Liz Conry is the architect of the program, but Blair acts almost as a second coach, dissecting swings and offering tips to her teammates.

"She is the most fantastic person to talk to when you’re trying to fix things," senior Carly Minert says. "You can ask her what she sees, and she always seems to have time for everybody."

On Wednesday at the Wasatch Mountain State Park Mountain Course, Blair will be looking to win — there’s no doubt. But if she misses the mark and doesn’t earn first place, it will be just as well if Bingham still manages its third straight team title.

In golf, it’s practical to take the long view, focusing on closing out the round rather than dwelling on a single shot. Blair sees no reason to approach life any differently.

"There will be times when I fall short of people’s expectations of me," she says. "I can’t be fazed by that. I have my own goals, and I just kind of put the blinders on and play."

kgoon@sltrib.comTwitter: @kylegoon

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