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FRANKLIN — It was the No. 15 hole at the Legends Golf Club on Saturday and Seymour High’s Paxton DeHaven needed to make a heroic shot.
DeHaven had buried her previous shot on the par-5 hole underneath a plant, the kind you need a chain saw to whack through. To finish among the leaders in the Indiana Girls Golf State Tournament, she had to make something magical happen, a la Phil Mickelson.
Watching from the distance was her mom, Noelle DeHaven, who was hoping her daughter might take her lumps, absorb a penalty stroke and drop the ball. Mom strategy isn’t often taken seriously on a golf course, but this mom doubles as the Owls’ head golf coach.
Not a chance, though, that her daughter would play it safe. All golfers have that “Tin Cup” moment, the one in which the little voice screams, “Go for it.”
Nobody remembers those times Mickelson does something really crazy, blows the U.S. Open and then says, “I’m such an idiot.”
Paxton DeHaven, who didn’t earn a full golf scholarship to the University of Indianapolis by playing scared, went for it.
After the smoke cleared, DeHaven had a 9. That’s a snowman plus one. I tried to look up a fancy name for a 9 but couldn’t find one.
“I wouldn’t normally have done it,” said DeHaven, who finished tied for 19th place at 10-over.
This was, after all, the state tournament and the final high school golf event of her life. She put it on the line and got run over by a bus.
It’s why professional golfers need psychologists.
Columbus North junior Sydney Anderson was similarly shredded. She caught a bad lie in a grass bunker at No. 9 and whoops a 9-iron into the water. A few moments later, she tapped in for 8. She was knocking on the door for a state title before the shot. Afterward, she struggled to an 81 and finished 17th.
Her nerves of steel turned into mashed potatoes.
“I just kept chunking it,” she said. “I got mixed up in the head.”
It’s what makes us love golf, and hate golf.
Anderson’s dad, Chris Anderson, had to stand the pain of the round as well, and he couldn’t even throw a club. He proudly noted, though, that his daughter would be composed after the round and would handle her misfortune with integrity.
Indeed, both Anderson and DeHaven exuded class when they finished one of the most athletically tormenting days of their lives. They smiled and shook hands with their competitors on the final hole and posed for endless pictures afterward.
Chris Anderson said college coaches put a lot of weight into the way their potential recruits handle defeat. Golf deals a heaping helping of it on a regular basis.
Perhaps that is why golfers such as DeHaven and Anderson can put everything on the line knowing they could face splat on a major stage. Four-time major champ Raymond Floyd used to say, “I am able to win because I am not afraid to lose.”
DeHaven and Anderson didn’t take home a trophy on Saturday, but it was easy to see, there will many heroic triumphs in their futures.
Jay Heater is The Republic sports editor. He can be reached at email@example.com or 379-5632.
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