Boardman’s Pikunas not afraid to embrace change

By Brian Dzenis

Jacinta Pikunas’ golf game is good, but that doesn’t mean it can’t evolve.

Pikunas is the Boardman girls golf team’s lone representative at this week’s Division I state tournament at Ohio State, where she was the individual runner-up last year.

The senior is committed to Akron and her coach, Brian Terlesky, said she averages about 1-under par a round. She has all of that going for her as the Spartans went undefeated in match play this year, but she hasn’t been satisfied. Putting has been a sore spot.

To fix that, she’s spent the season putting in a style known as “left-hand low.” Most right-handed golfers grip a putter with their left hand toward the top of the club and the right hand just below the left. Left-hand low is the reverse. PGA pros Jordan Spieth and Rory McIllroy have used it.

Even the late Arnold Palmer endorsed it, so why not Pikunas?

“It’s been trending among professionals in the sport. It’s a new technique that a lot of people have been trying it and some pros have had success with it,” Pikunas said. “So I thought I’m struggling with short putts this year and it’s usually my strong point and I wanted to get back to making it my strong point.”

Terlesky signed on with it as well.

“She’s been having a lot of trouble throughout the summer and into the beginning of the high school season,” Terlesky said. “She would miss putts to the right because the toe was open on the club. It helps her square the club up a little bit better an she’s been more consistent on 3-to-5 foot putts.”

Pikunas described adjusting to the new stroke as a trial and error process, but she’s taken well to it. Even though the technique was used only to fix issues with short putts, it’s become her full-time stroke.

“I do left hand low for everything, I don’t want to create any inconsistency from switching back and forth between hands,” Pikunas said.

On Oct. 11, Pikunas shot a 75 at the Division I Northeast District Tournament to take seventh and one of the three individual qualifying spots in the state tournament. A switch of the hands could be the difference between runner-up and state champion.

“It creates a more consistent, beautiful stroke, which is what all golfers like.”