April 30, 2009
A fast start Monday on day one of the 2009 NJCAA Region 23 Golf Championship proved to be elusive for Hal Larkin.
Birdies on three of the first five holes gave the former Caledonia High School golf standout reason to believe he could secure a trip to the NJCAA National Championship.
But Larkin''s early momentum evaporated.
A stretch of double bogey, bogey, double bogey, and bogey at the end of his front nine helped push Larkin''s first-round score to 79.
Despite that frustration, Larkin stayed positive, wrote down his mistakes from day one, and pledged to improve on them on day two.
Larkin did just that and, in the process, accomplished a season-long goal Tuesday when he qualified for the NJCAA National Championship.
Larkin shot a 1-over-par 73 Tuesday at the Mississippi State Golf Course to finish with a two-day total of 152.
Larkin''s score helped him earn one of the five individual spots to compete in the national tournament May 19-22 at Goose Pond Colony in Scottsboro, Ala.
"This is the best feeling in the world," Larkin said. "The second day I was more mature about it and more relaxed."
Larkin, an MACJC All-State Second Team member, tied for the best round of the day Tuesday.
EMCC golf coach Dale Peay said the school has had at least two other individual qualifiers for the NJCAA National Golf Championship.
Gary "Scotty" Sheppard, from Glasgow, Scotland, played at EMCC in 2003-04.
Drew McBrayer, the golf coach at New Hope High School, played at EMCC in the late 1990s and also qualified for the national championship.
Larkin attributed most of his problems on day one to his mental approach. He said he hit the ball great but thought too much about having a chance to play at the national championship.
Larkin said his concentration was much better Tuesday after he focused on playing his game and tried to make as many birdies as he could.
"I stayed positive. The first day I was a little negative," Larkin said. "I guess I thought more about my shots before I hit the ball."
Peay said Larkin, who didn''t play golf at EMCC as a freshman due to academics, showed just how much he has matured by qualifying for nationals
"I don''t know if early on in his career he would have been able to come back (after the first round) and shoot a 73 on the second day," Peay said. "He struggled a little bit on the first day and got himself into a position where he had to play well the second day. He came through and did what he had to do to get an opportunity to go to the national championships."
Peay said it is typical for many golfers to carry the frustration from one hole or from a round to the next hole or day. He said Larkin''s ability to handle his emotions allowed him to shoot a 73 and to realize a goal he had set for himself at the beginning of the season.
"I thought about making nationals all year," Larkin said. "Before the start of the season I told my teammates I was going to nationals. I wanted to do it so bad."
EMCC improved 14 strokes Tuesday and shot a two-day total of 624 to finish second to Mississippi Gulf Coast C.C.
Jordan Jamar (80-77) and Will Black (82-75) tied for ninth with 157s. Garrett Alford (78-80--158) and Trey Adams (85-86--171) rounded out EMCC''s scorers.
Adam Minichino is the Sports Editor for The Commercial Dispatch.