QUINCY -- The swing. The contact. The trajectory. Everything about Alex McCulla's tee shot on the par-3 ninth hole Tuesday seemed pure.
Everything except the landing.
McCulla's shot flew over the flagstick and landed 10 feet or so behind the green, forcing him to scramble to try to save par on his final hole in the opening round of the 46th annual Pepsi Little People's Golf Championships. His chip from the rough was less than ideal, and he two-putted for a bogey that saddled him with 1-under 70.
The Quincy Notre Dame junior was one of only two players to break par in the boys 16-17 division and will have a shot at winning his third straight LPGC title Wednesday. He trails Aaron Kuznik of Orono, Minn., by two strokes and knows he can go low. Really low. Record-setting low.
He simply hasn't done that this summer, which is why Tuesday's round was so indicative of the way McCulla has played.
He's been good. He hasn't been good enough for his expectations.
"The summer has been good but bad at the same time," said McCulla, who came into this event having won the inaugural St. Louis Junior Invitational last week at Norwood Hills Country Club. "All my scores look good. The highest round I've shot is 72, and my summer average right now is right around 71.
"But I feel like every single round is just awful."
Some will chuckle and say they'd take his scores. Some will suggest he might be a little melodramatic. Some will tell him to relax.
He can't. He won't. He shouldn't.
McCulla wants to be the best. He wants to win a state championship. He wants to play for an NCAA Division I program. He wants to earn his living on the golf course.
Shooting 70 on a day when he could have posted a 67, maybe even a 65, doesn't get him to that level if he's satisfied with how it played out. And he's not. Not in the least.
"The way I would describe it is my scores are good if you're just looking at the board," McCulla said. "If you see me hitting the ball and where I put myself in positions off the tee, you would never in your wildest dreams think I was shooting a 70.
"My short game is awful. My chipping is terrible, maybe the worst it's been in my life."
If that's the case, how does he continue to score and win and pique the interest of college coaches?
McCulla hits the ball with more pace, power and precision off the tee than ever before. His drives are consistently reaching 320 yards and his fairway accuracy is often 70 percent or higher.
"I figured after I picked up distance I'd struggle to be accurate," McCulla said. "I feel like I'm more accurate now."
And more capable of going low, low, low.
With the schedule McCulla has looming, that should serve him well. On the horizon are the U.S. Junior qualifier, the U.S. Amateur qualifier, one or two AJGA events, the Quincy Men's City Golf Championship and whatever else pops up.
It's enough to keep him sharp but not playing so much that he neglects practice time.
That's what will help those shots that seem pure turn out pure and his potential be fully realized.