Time was ticking away on Derek Hamm’s career, but he did not put a watch on it.
The Heath senior’s motivation to reach the Division II state tournament was not because it is his senior year. The motivation came from wanting to see an offseason of hard work pay off.
Hamm entered the 2012 district tournament with one of the best sectional scores. He, however, fell two shots short of a playoff for a state bid.
“I looked at it as my first real chance to make it to state,” Hamm said. “My junior year I didn’t practice enough in the offseason. This offseason I put in the time. I didn’t see it as pressure because I had worked my (rear) off and knew I deserved it.”
Hamm, who plays Friday and Saturday at NorthStar Golf Club in Sunbury, left no doubt this season. Hamm shot 37 and 35 at River Greens Golf Course in West Lafayette to qualify. His 72 was one shot behind the medalist and was the best score not on a qualifying team ahead, of a 74 and a 75.
The stretch that clinched Hamm’s berth to the state came during the back nine. He birdied Nos. 11 and 13 before saving par on No. 14 after hitting into the weeds. He finished the hot streak with a birdie on No. 15.
“You never stop believing,” Hamm said. “I had the mind-set going into the tournament of winning and not just qualifying to state. Even after my bad shots, I kept my focus.”
Hamm tees off at 9:48 a.m. Friday on No. 1. His tee time Saturday will be determined by Friday’s round.
Hamm has played NorthStar just once. He will play it again in a practice round Thursday. The unknown is something Hamm is looking forward to.
“If you haven’t seen a course, you play safer the first day and then go all out the second day,” Hamm said. “If you don’t know the course, you allow yourself to just play golf.”
Hamm has not made a college decision yet. The recruiting process was slow starting as he did not play in many elite summer tournaments.
College coaches, however, have started to notice. Another two days of golf in the low 70s might have his cell phone buzzing.
“Making it to state, my recruitment has really picked up,” Hamm said.
Valley making first trip
The Licking Valley girls finished a perfect 3-for-3 in hitting their goals. Now, the Panthers can enjoy the fruits of their labor.
Valley won the Licking County League and Division II sectional titles before qualifying for the program’s first state tournament a week ago. The Panthers play in the state tournament Friday and Saturday on the Gray Course at Ohio State.
The Panthers advanced by continuing to play with impressive consistency. Valley shot 376 to place second in the district tournament at Blacklick Woods. The Panthers previously had shot 372 and 373 on the course.
“I am thrilled with how the girls have played,” Valley coach Lori Guest said. “I am so happy for them. It is not easy to have the same score on a course.”
Tori Johnson and Allie Breymaier have proven to be a formidable 1-2 punch, but Morgan Gossett has emerged to give Valley a third scorer under 100. That was key as every other district contender put at least three players under 100.
Johnson shot 82, Breymaier at 91 and Gossett 94 with matching 47s on each nine. Jennie Blosser’s 108 secured the state bid. The Panthers finished two strokes ahead of fellow qualifier Sugarcreek Garaway. Minerva’s 384 was the best team score to fall short.
“All of my players have improved, but (Lakewood coach Phil Sikorski) mentioned (Gossett) at the district,” Guest said. “She has snuck up on everyone. It used to be you needed three kids around 100. Now, you need three or four under 100 because girls golf has improved so much.”
Valley tees off at 9:56 a.m. on No. 10.
The biggest disappointment for Guest is only five of her six players are eligible to play. Six players compete in varsity matches during the regular season, but the Ohio High School Athletic Association drops it to five for the postseason.
During the sectional and districts, Haley Smith has rounded the varsity lineup as Carissa Cline has sat out.
“All of our players contributed big-time,” Guest said. “We wouldn’t have won some of the matches we did this season without Carissa. It is heartbreaking not all of my players can compete.”