Right attitude helped Hess reach state finals
The right attitude might be the strongest asset of Dowagiac High School junior golfer Christian Hess.
Hess didn’t get discouraged when his junior year got off to a difficult start.
“At the beginning of the year I got off to a shaky start and didn’t play well,” said Hess. “As the year went along I got my swing down and gotten a lot better.”
So much better that Hess has qualified individually for the Division III golf state finals which take place Friday and Saturday at Bedford Valley Golf Course in Battle Creek.
Making the state finals for the first time in his high school career wasn’t easy for Hess. He had to birdie the second playoff hole at the regionals to earn the third and final individual qualifying spot. Hess and Vermontville Maple Valley’s Rage Sheldon finished regulation tied at 81.
Both parred the first playoff hole setting up the dramatic finish.
Hess was calm because of his past experience.
“This past summer I was in a playoff in a golf tournament and I knew what I was like,” Hess said. “You play like you practice and be relaxed and just score well.
“After I hit the shot (second playoff hole) I didn’t think it was as close as it was. I got excited when I saw how close it was. I put pressure on the other kid. His second shot didn’t go far at all and didn’t even make it up on to the green.”
Dowagiac coach Van Johnson wasn’t surprised that Hess made it to the state finals.
“He’s played a lot of golf,” said Johnson. “He knows what he has to do to get the job done. You’ve got to grind it out and that’s what he did. I’m excited for him to be able to get through.”
The day at the regional was like a normal day for Hess, who averaged an 84 score during the regular season.
“He’s been fairly solid all year score-wise,” Johnson said. “You can write down what he’ll shoot. I think he managed the ball pretty well at the regionals.”
Hess, who helped Dowagiac finish third overall in the Wolverine Conference and first in the West Division, shot a 40 on the front and a 41 on the back nine at the regionals.
What a difference a year makes for Hess, who averaged a 90 score as a sophomore.
“He’s a lot longer this year off the tee,” Johnson said. “He’s also hitting irons fairly close and not missing a lot of greens.”
A challenge for Hess this week will be playing on a golf course he hasn’t played on before. A practice round on Tuesday is Hess’ lone time on the course.
But that unfamiliarity doesn’t bother the Chieftains’ golf standout.
“I don’t want to get too worked up or nervous,” Hess said. “I just want to play my game. I know I’m capable of shooting a low score.”
“He’s long enough and the course has small greens and that’s to his advantage and will help him a lot,” Johnson said. “He should play fairly well there.”
Extra motivation for Hess is that Johnson’s final coaching match will be this weekend. After 34 years, Johnson is retiring as coach.
“I want to do well, especially for him,” Hess said.