Watkins Memorial High School's Emily Dixon drove the green at the par-4 ninth hole during a recent round at Kyber Run Golf Course, perhaps underscoring what it is she does best at this point in her career.

Watkins Memorial High School's Emily Dixon drove the green at the par-4 ninth hole during a recent round at Kyber Run Golf Course, perhaps underscoring what it is she does best at this point in her career.

"I'm driving the ball pretty well," the soft-spoken sophomore said. "My dad has always said I have a natural swing."

Dixon will have two chances this week to see a rising star showcase a more complete game.

She'll compete in the fourth and final OCC-Ohio Division tournament Monday at Bent Tree, which is followed by a match Wednesday at Valley View. Both events also feature Lancaster senior Samantha Swinehart, the defending Division I individual girls state champion who will play next year at the University of South Carolina.

"There's no question Emily plays better when she's playing with the better players," said her father, Matt, a volunteer coach who is working with the school's girls players. "She never gets intimidated, either. She uses opportunities like those to improve."

Dixon was paired with Swinehart during the first OCC-Ohio tournament Aug. 19 at Raymond Memorial, where Swinehart carded a career-best 66 as Dixon shot a more than respectable 78. They also played together during the district meet last fall at Bent Tree, where Swinehart was medalist with a 74 and Dixon shot 90 after surviving sectional play a week earlier as an individual by posting an 83 at Mill Creek.

Both the Golden Gales and Warriors have been assigned to the Mill Creek sectional again, and that event will be held Oct. 6.

"She's so together even when she hits into trouble," Dixon said of Swinehart, who was the state runner-up behind former teammate Allie White in both 2006 and '07. "I can drive with her, but she just gets up and down so often and her putting and chipping are amazing."

Dixon, whose career-best round is a 73, continues to struggle at times with her putter, a fault that plagues seasoned players at every level. She entered her first youth tournament when she was six years old and became even more serious about the game when she got to middle school. She broke 80 -- long considered a monumental achievement for amateurs of all ages -- for the first time two summers ago. More recently, Dixon carded a 76 to win the individual title at the Bexley Invitational on Sept. 12 at Fox Fire, edging Watterson's Lauren Grogan on a tiebreaker.

"She can shoot just about any number as long as her putting's going well. That's her downfall right now and it's becoming a focus for us," Matt Dixon said. "Early in her career we focused more on her swing, and that's when we started private instruction. It wasn't so much that we were trying to create a golf pro or anything like that, but we wanted to avoid picking up bad habits because they're so hard to get rid of."

Emily Dixon has grown up in a golfing household. Her parents own and operate Broadview Golf Course in Pataskala, and her two younger brothers also play.

She eschews the technological aspect of improvement, preferring instead to swing away under the watchful eye of former Little Turtle head professional Alecia Larsen rather than utilizing some of the more popular methods now available.

"To be honest, I don't think Emily's ever seen her swing on video tape," her father said.

Her fluid swing has been witnessed by many of the impressionable up-and-coming players currently at the middle school, however. In that regard, Dixon has become somewhat of a trailblazer. Her success last year in qualifying for the district meet as a freshman encouraged others to join the golf program.

"We have this one girl who's a seventh-grader. Her scores are very similar to what Emily was shooting at that age, and she's got a real chance to be every bit as good," Dixon's father said. "She's always telling me, "I want to be like Emily.'"

•POSTSEASON UPDATE - The postseason begins this week for some area girls and boys teams.

Heath, Newark Catholic and Lakewood compete in the Division II girls sectional Tuesday at Fox Fire while Granville and Licking Valley tee up in Wednesday's sectional at Mill Creek.

Tuesday's Division II boys sectional at Granville features Lakewood, Heath, Utica, Licking Valley and the MSL-Ohio-champion Blue Aces. Johnstown, Northridge and Licking Heights are at The Players Club sectional on the same day.

Newark Catholic competes in the Division III boys sectional Tuesday at Pine Hill.