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Potter Pursuing Perfection

Oct. 18, 2006

Assistant Editor
Golfweek.com: Potter Pursuing Perfection

Jessica Potter's game is anything but ugly. When the sweet-swinging junior at the University of San Francisco practices, perfection is the only option.

In a practice round a few weeks ago at the Meadow Club outside of San Francisco, Potter called coach Josh Cupp over to examine a problem with her swing. After rifling a driver down the 12th fairway, she lined up an 8-iron from 139 yards. Potter reeled back and slung a dart directly at the flag stick. Her ball bounced a couple of times on the green, hit the pin and stopped 6 inches from the hole.

"She puts her club on the ground, leans up against it and looks at me and says, 'My swing is so disgusting right now,' " Cupp said. "If I would have hit that shot, I would have been telling everyone about it."

Potter contended that the ball came off her club face thin and it was pure luck that the ball hit the flag. "Honestly, it was a bad shot," she said.

Regardless of the outcome, Potter expects the process to be seamless. It's why she spent the summer at home in Coquitian, British Columbia, focusing more attention on practice than play, limiting herself to just three competitive events.

"I am very hard on myself in practice," said Potter. "I can be too much of a perfectionist at times, going for the perfect swing and the perfect stroke. But when it comes down to it, my tournament mentality is a little different. Once I'm on the course, all I have is the game I've brought that day, and I try to work with that, whether it's good or bad."

After spending the summer working on a number of swing changes, the 20-year-old Potter teed it up at the Canadian Women's Amateur in August. Believeing she was without her A-game, Potter outlasted Veronique Drouin in a one-hole playoff to win the title.

"I was kind of just stunned on the first green when I won," said Potter, who gained an exemption into the 2007 CN Canadian Women's Open, an LPGA Tour event. "I like to think you can win ugly. That comforts me when I'm not playing well. I try to have a fighting mentality and try to shoot the best number I can."

It's an attitude that Potter says she's gained after a frank conversation with Cupp last winter. After finishing her freshman year No. 177 in the Golfweek/Sagarin College Rankings, Cupp and Potter discussed what life would be like after graduation.

"I asked her if she wanted to play golf after school and she was really wishy-washy about it," Cupp said.

After all, life at USF isn't all about golf for Potter. In addition to maintaining a 3.7 GPA in her exercise and sports science major, Potter is also taking pre-med requirements so she can apply to dental school after graduation. Balancing golf and school needed extra attention, so she made a list of goals to accomplish during her sophomore campaign. At the top of the list: spend extra time reshaping her swing and game.

It worked.

Last year, she finished the season ranked 64th thanks to eight top-10 finishes in ten tournaments, including a win at the Oregon Duck Invitational. Potter qualified for the NCAA West Regional as an individual and was named All-West Coast Conference first team.

Potter is already off to a solid start this year, earning a tie for 13th at the Branch Law Firm/Dick McGuire Invitational and a tie for 14th at the Jeannine McHaney Intercollegiate. But the modest Potter expects more of herself. She lives the 'practice makes perfect' motto as if it was tattooed on her arm. But in golf, perfection is rarely acquired.

"I try my hardest not to be too hard on myself," she said. "I can get too mechanical and I can practice way too hard on my swing. I definitely get reminded about that."

Added Cupp: "She does grind and she has tremendous heart. And she works really hard when she has a bad ballstriking day ... That's Jessica Potter in a nutshell."

And that's a thing of beauty.

• • •Dan Mirocha is a Golfweek assistant editor. To reach him e-mail dmirocha@golfweek.com.