It’s when Dominick Francks shanks a shot off the tee, slicing into the rough, that the new, improved Dominick Francks is most apparent.
Rather than fume and slam his club into the bag in frustration, Francks stays cool and plots his next shot.
“I’m a lot calmer on the golf course,” the Olympia High junior said. “I used to be easily rattled. I’d have a couple of bad holes and that would ruin my entire round.”
Francks’ new approach, combined with a revamped swing, makes him one of the favorites to win the 4A state tournament that begins today in Spokane. Francks recently won the Narrows League championship, shooting rounds of 72 and 68 in the two-day event. His total of 140 was four under par and five strokes ahead of the second place finisher.
Last year as a sophomore, Francks was one-and-done at state, failing to make the second round.
Francks’ remodel began the summer after his freshman year when he began taking lessons from Joe Thiel, a local instructor and swing coach.
“Joe’s helped me a lot with the mental stuff,” Francks said. “He’s a great coach.”
Francks was been the dutiful student, working on his game year around.
Over the winter when Francks played on the school’s basketball team that placed fourth at state, he got his practice swings in. If the team practiced late, he’d head to the driving range. If they practiced right after school, he’d get his practice swings in at home, hitting iron shots into a net in his playroom.
“Dom really caught the bug after his freshman year,” Olympia coach Skip Fabritius said. “He had some obvious talent to begin with, but he had never gone through any formal lessons or anything.”
Thiel’s redo included swing revisions and an attitude overhaul.
“Joe said it would take about a year for it all to come together,” Fabritius said. “It was last summer that things began to click.”
And Francks’ scores began to drop.
The results were dramatic as he went from the middle-of-the-pack finisher to front-runner. Francks won the Washington State Junior Golf Association state championship for his age group and the Pacific Northwest Junior Amateur last summer.
Francks lost only one dual match this season, shooting 76 to finish one shot behind teammate Pat Nugent.
All the winning brought confidence.
“Instead of wondering if this putt is going to drop you start thinking this is going to drop,” Fabritius said. “He was a completely different player from what he was last year.”
It’s not so much how Francks’ swing looks. Francks can be walking down the fairway, talking and smiling. Then he gets over the ball.
“You could see it in his demeanor and in his level of confidence,” Fabritius said. “He has an ability like I’ve never seen out of a high school player to concentrate for 30 seconds over a shot.
“That’s when he’s completely focused.”
Besides Francks’ mental makeover, he said his putting has been a big reason for his turnaround. He spends more time putting than he used to, practicing with a putter he bought on eBay two years ago for $65.
“That’s where you can make up a lot of shots,” he said.
When he bends over a pressure shot, Francks calms his nerves with one thought.
“I just think ‘I’ve hit this shot a thousand times,’ or ‘I’ve made this putt a thousand times,’ ” Francks said.
Francks’ game isn’t “freakishly” long. He hits maybe 275 yards off the tee. But he’s accurate and consistent.
“His driver and 3-wood cost him anywhere between 20 and 30 yards in distance,” Fabritius said.
When he plays his last high school match a year from now, Francks, a 3.9 student, hopes he hasn’t played his last match.
“I hope to play in college,” he said. “We’ll see.”