FLANDERS _ Chatham's Jess Barry was playing steady golf prior to spring break when she went off to visit colleges.
For the last two and a half weeks, Barry has been toiling to regain her swing.
"I'm not really sure what happened," said Barry, a senior. "It just fell apart."
A day before the Morris County Girls Golf Tournament, Barry carded a 2-over par 34 in a match at Pinch Brook and was encouraged. On Wednesday, May 4, Barry fired a 43 on the Flanders Valley Blue Course and claimed her first MCT crown.
"I've been trying to get back to basics," said Barry, the runner-up in 2014 and 2015. "I took nice easy swings. Winning today is great. Everything came full circle. If there was one thing I wanted to do before graduating high school, it was to win this."
Freshman Lindsay Perrin of Mendham, solid off the tee, had a 45 and finished second. A pair of sophomores, Montville's Emily Cheng and Mendham's Caroline Fischbach, took third and fourth by shooting 48 and 49, respectively. Chatham's Jen McCann and Pequannock's Julia Taormina shared fifth with 50s.
Barry was one stroke behind Hanover Park's Rianna Quiogue in 2015. As a sophomore, Barry was second to Madison's Carley Hopton, now at the IMG Academy.
Being No. 2 disturbed Barry because she was so close, especially last spring. Her game may have been affected by thoughts of a band trip, although she didn't want to blame it for her woes which she attributed to poor course management and an "off day." A member of Chatham's chorus, Barry literally sprinted off the course to catch up to the bus in Delaware.
This time, Barry, who may try and walk on to the golf team at the University of Maryland in the fall, was able to linger a bit. She was satisfied with her showing for the most part and said she tried to "limit myself to a bogey at worst." She had two attempts at birdie lip out on the eighth and ninth holes yet didn't let them get into her head.
"The saving grace of my game was putting," Barry said. "I did pretty well with that part. I had one bad hole, No. 5, when I had a triple bogey because I put my ball in the water. I was a little bummed out about that. I gave myself birdie chances and tried to make par."
Chatham coach Stephen Kmiec praised Barry, the NJAC champion last spring, for overcoming her recent struggles.
"Jess has had big expectations," Kmiec said. "Being a senior is difficult. There's the rat race of college applications and she's taking AP classes. Jess has to meet deadlines. There's all that stress and pressure and it takes a toll.
"Golf is like life. There are ebbs and flows, ups and downs. It's how you deal with the downturns. Jess worked at what was wrong and fixed it."
Perrin, who prides herself on putting, wasn't as accurate on the greens as usual in her MCT debut.
"I missed quite a few," Perrin said. "I missed a three-foot putt for bogey. It was really close to the hole. I guess I played OK. I was pleased with how I did off the tee box. All but my very first shot, which didn't make the fairway, were good."
One of the highlights of Perrin's round was the 15-foot putt she sank for par on No. 9, her third hole of the day.
Fischbach didn't hesitate when asked if she was pleased with her effort.
"No, not at all," said Fischbach, unsuccessful with her putting and chipping.
"You can come back from drives but it's hard to come back from chips and putts," Fischbach said. "Last year, I didn't do well here and that got in my head and held me down. I'm just a little disappointed. I know I can do better."