It could be agonizing for Blaine Hager to think back to the Div. I district golf tournament Saturday, Oct. 14 and go through his round shot by shot.
The West Holmes senior played a terrific round of golf at Eaglesticks Golf Course in Zanesville, and had put himself in position to claim a spot at the state tournament. He was two-over par going on to the 14th hole, but would soon find himself struggling. A pair of double bogeys on 14 and 15 put him at six-over par, and pretty much sealed his fate.
Yet the senior showed incredible resolve, and put those two horrible holes behind him and plowed ahead.
A birdie on 16 was followed by a great approach shot on 17 that left him with a six-foot birdie attempt. His putt looked like it was rolling true, but lipped out, leaving him with a tap-in par.
Hager kept charging, knocking his approach shot tight on 18 and rolled in another birdie.
That late charge left Hager sitting on 76, a score that would trail just one other competitor in the district field. However, only one player is eligible to advance to the state meet, and that left Hager one shot away from finishing his career at the ultimate level.
Tri-Valley’s Dalton Crowley was the player who shot 75 and he will now proceed to the state tournament to compete.
Yet despite the agony of what might have beens and what-ifs, Hager took it all in stride.
“It hurt quite a bit at first, but hen I realized I did everything I could and really played well,” Hager said. “14 and 15 really hurt my chances with back-to-back double bogeys. Walking off of 15 really hurt, knowing that it might be it. But I was able to kind of gather myself and refocus, and really played great over the final three holes to give myself a chance.”
Hole number 15 turned out to be the one that will haunt Hager the most. After the double bogey at 14, he busted a huge drive down the middle. He then hit a poor approach shot. His pitch shot curled up about eight feet from the hole, and he proceeded to three-putt from that distance.
To come back from those two disastrous holes showed the kind of mental toughness Hager possesses.
“It hurt for sure, but there wasn’t a lot I could do about it once it was over,” Hager said. “If that putt on 17 would have dropped and I had finished with three birdies, that would have been crazy. But at least I can say that I finished strong and played well in my final match of my career.”
Hager said he and head coach Phil Schlabach talked about what it might take to advance to state. They agreed that a 75 or 76 might do the trick, and it turned out to be prophetic.
“We felt that anything below 65 would be almost a guarantee of going to state,” Hager said. “Turns out that was the case.”
Hager also showed some class by talking about all of the people who have been so supportive of his career, from his parents and friends to Coach Schlabach and others.
“I can’t thank everyone enough for supporting me and helping me get this far,” Hager said. “I especially would have liked to have made state for Coach Phil. “It would have been awesome to move on and get him a spot at state.”
With just one shot separating himself from the individual champion, every hole and every shot will be analyzed, at least for a while, but Hager seems to be at peace with the knowledge that he played his best golf in the end, and that is enough.