As he stared down the fairway from the 10th tee at the regional tournament, Jake Hash faced an all too familiar task — nine holes and two strokes away from a trip to the state finals.
Last year, in the exact same scenario, Hash struggled during his final nine holes. He double-bogeyed the 10th hole and finished the day eight strokes from qualifying for the state finals.
Falling apart when playing your best matters most is a memory that sticks in your brain like a thorn stuck in your side. Most golfers would just as soon forget.
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Hash isn’t most golfers, though.
So, when his second chance at state came around this year, he didn’t dwell on failure or overthink it. The Franklin Community High School senior used his previous attempt at a trip to state as a guide for what not to do and finished his round with a 73 — one stroke over par and a mile away from the misery of his junior year.
“(Last year) I thought that was the (best I could do). After hole 10 I knew it was going to be really hard to advance,” Hash said. “That was a big learning experience because I knew what it took this year. It was the same course, I knew how it was going to play, and I knew how to play it a little bit better.”
Hash has perfected a secret of the game of golf many know but just can’t seem to master: He doesn’t defeat himself mentally.
He isn’t worrying about expectations. It’s debatable as to whether he even has expectations. He’s not worried about where he should be or what he should have done when he’s deciding how to get out of a sand trap or back onto the fairway from the rough.
If Hash has anything other than his clubs with him on the golf course it’s his goals, and trying to reach them never involves beating himself up mentally when he falls short.
He just plays golf. It’s that simple. It’s a large part of what got him to the IHSAA Boys Golf State Championship today, where Hash will play his first of two rounds at Prairie View Golf Club in Carmel.
There are many reasons why today shouldn’t have happened, though. In sectional competition, Hash was 6 over par and slowly coming to the realization he might be playing his last round of golf for Franklin. But his team bailed him out with a team score good enough to advance everyone, he said.
At the regional, the team missed advancing by two strokes, but Hash qualified for state as an individual. That has given Hash even more motivation to deliver on today and Wednesday.
“He’s carrying the torch for Franklin,” head coach Curt Holcroft said. “(Advancing as a team) was so close we could taste it, and we just missed out on it.”
Hash said he embraces the chance to win it for his school and his teammates, but it hasn’t added pressure, expectations or stress. It’s not that he isn’t nervous. Everyone has nerves on the first tee, he said.
But the pressure and expectations just aren’t the same for Hash.
“I wish I started playing when I was that young,” Hash said while watching a group of children taking golf lessons at Hillview Country Club on Monday.
But playing that young can often create greater expectations or being held to higher standards of success — all the things Hash doesn’t have to deal with while playing a round of golf.
Hash started playing at an age much older than the kindergarten-aged children learning how to putt.
He didn’t start playing competitively until his eighth-grade year. His dad thought he should stick with track, he said. Hash’s track career had state championship expectations, his golf career did not. But he stuck with golf.
His parents have supported him, though both thought he might not like golf because of how demanding it would likely be, speculating that he may get burned out too easily and not stick with it, he said.
But he played anyway, and as a freshman he started, and Franklin’s golf team won the sectional. That is when golf became a passion for Hash.
“His freshman year I wasn’t even looking at him as a starter,” Holcroft said. “Nobody really expected him to start as a freshman. I didn’t expect it. Beating Center Grove in sectionals was a huge motivational piece for him (to work even harder).”
That following summer heading into his sophomore year he played five times a week. During the winter, he was at golf lessons two times a week. He loved to play leisurely with his friends as much as he loved to work on his swing with his coach or practice swinging in front of a mirror at home to find flaws in his motion.
Hash played a practice round Monday and walked the course with his coach to discuss what clubs to use in different situations while trying to get a feel for Prairie View’s golf course.
Among all the topics he and Holcroft have discussed in preparation for today, becoming a state champion was not among the most talked about. Talking and thinking about what that moment would be like would put too much pressure on these next two days.
So, Hash shut off thoughts about becoming a state champion Monday, realizing he has to get through today’s round to even be in a position to think about the possibility, he said.
But for someone who just started competitively playing four years ago, what would that moment be like?
As he thought about what it would mean to have “state champion” forever tied to his name, he sat quietly, rolling a golf ball back and forth between his hands. Just before he answered the grin on his face turned into a giant smile.
“That would be crazy.”