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(Photo by Bill Allen/NJ SportAction)

SHOOTING STAR: Hun School junior Ica Morales is all smiles as she reflects on winning the state Prep girls' golf title earlier this month. Morales, who placed fourth in the competition last spring, shot a 38 to edge defending champion Kathryn Batchelor of Princeton Day School by two strokes.
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Utilizing More Serious Approach to Golf, Hun's Morales Wins Prep Girls' Crown

By Bill Alden

When Ica Morales took up golf four summers ago as a seventh grader, she viewed the sport as a pleasant diversion.

Immersed in organized basketball and softball, Morales' main competition in golf for the next two years centered on trying to hold her own against her golf-loving father who had introduced her to the game.

Morales' involvement in golf, though, took a more serious turn after she entered the Hun School as she opted to drop softball in favor of golf.

Realizing right away that she enjoyed competitive golf, Morales' former sporting sidelight blossomed into a passion. Last spring, Morales showed her potential in the game as she finished fourth in the Prep girls' state tournament.

Earlier this month, Morales took her game to new heights as she won the state Prep girls' title, besting defending champion Kathryn Batchelor of Princeton Day School by two strokes.

For Morales, making the decision to play golf for the Raiders put her on a new course in the game. "It set me on the right track," said the diminutive Morales, who has stayed with her first sporting love, basketball, and has developed into a star point guard at Hun.

"I started to understand how competitive golf worked. I started to learn how to handle the mental aspects of the game."

Morales utilized her more focused mental approach in achieving her goal of winning the Prep crown. "I knew I had to step up, I really wanted to improve on my fourth place finish," said Morales.

"I'm a feel player and I was more confident in my swing coming into this season. I have learned the mental state you need, starting at the first tee. You have to be calm and collected, you can't rush things."

In Morales' view, a key aspect of her refined mental approach is living in the moment. "You have to play basically shot by shot," explained the affable Morales. "You have about 38-41 swings and you have to make each one good."

In the state competition played at the Peddie School Golf Course, Morales achieved that goal as she shot a 38 to edge Batchelor by two strokes.

The triumph should be a springboard to even greater things in golf for Morales. "I was proud to beat Kathryn and Meg Bender [of Lawrenceville]," said Morales, who had written out her planned approach for each hole the night before and then consulted her notes as she went through the round. "They will both be playing golf in college so it was a real confidence builder for me."

Morales is keeping her college athletic options open, believing that playing golf and basketball makes her a unique package.

"Golf is a tough sport, you need to be mentally focused and you can't just wing it," said Morales, who plans to play AAU and summer basketball as well as to compete in Futures Tour for Mercer County and other golf competitions after school is out.

"Basketball is an outlet for physical play and emotion. But as a point guard, you have to keep your head. You're responsible for running the offense and making adjustments. I love the combination of the sports."

With Morales' combination of physical talent and competitive desire, there is no telling where she'll end up athletically.

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