Each week, the Tallahassee Democrat will feature a Q&A with a former prep athlete in the Tallahassee area. Henry Westmoreland IV, a former Florida High golfer, will be starting his sophomore year at the Division II University of West Florida in the fall.
Westmoreland was the 2012 All-Big Bend Player of the Year as a junior, winning Big Bend Championship and District 1-1A titles during the year. He led the area in scoring average that year at 34 strokes per nine holes. Westmoreland was an All-Big Bend first team selection from his sophomore through senior years.
At UWF, Westmoreland shot a season-low round of 70 in March and has been using his summer to reach the 60s again. He shot 65-71-68 last weekend at the 2015 Oglethorpe Invitational in Savannah, Ga., to finish second by one stroke.
Westmoreland stepped off the links of Pensacola Country Club where he works to talk about his progression through golf’s tumultuous ups and downs.
Question: You had a putt on No. 18 this past weekend that would have tied you for the lead at the Oglethorpe Invitational and put you in a playoff. Tough missing ones like that?
Answer: “The wind was soaring from right to left into my face. I hit a good approach shot from around 130 yards out to about eight feet. I knew that putt was going to mean something at the time. I assumed it would be for a win or to get into a playoff. I just didn’t put as good a stroke on it as I should have.”
Q: How do you keep it from bothering you?
A: “You’ve got to look at the positives. I played strong all week long. It was my best tournament of the year. It’s obviously disappointing to come up one stroke short, but the positives are I played well all week, I putted great, I drove the ball great. It was just an all-around good week.”
Q: A stroke average in high school that led the Big Bend and then all of a sudden you’re shooting mid-to-upper 70s each week in college. Tough adjustment?
A: “The transition to high school from college was very big. It took a year to get used to it. The big difference was time management and just staying patient, off the course and on the course. You’ve got to play for par most of the time. Off the course, you manage your time studying and taking exams. You try to balance it all out. You stay patient. I’ve learned not to be so hard on myself. The birdies will come. You don’t have to work for them. If you keep giving yourself looks, the putts will eventually drop.”
Q: Still there are all the instances where you can lose a tournament by one stroke, whether that’s going back to high school or just last weekend. How do you learn from those instances?
A: “You’re right, every stroke counts. That’s how it is in college qualifying a lot. We have 4-6 rounds of qualifying during our season and it usually comes down to one shot. You’ve just got to minimize your mistakes. You need to grind over the 2-3 foot putts and make sure you make them. If you miss one or two of them, it could cost you a tournament or a spot on the team going to a tournament.”
Q: You qualified for the Florida state amateur in Ocala along with a couple Chiles grads, Eli Hendricks and Chase Burkhalter. Big for you?
A: “There were only three spots available in our qualifier and all three of us got it and shot under par. It was a good tournament. I had a good tournament at the state am too. I didn’t have a good first day, but I ended up making the cut and went 1-under the last two days. It was a good turnaround and after the first day I just kept getting better.”
Q: High school can be a bit of a bomber’s mentality— just rip out driver and hit it as far as you can. How much smarter do you feel you are in maneuvering around a course and knowing when to pull out a different club?
A: “In high school, all of us were bombers, me, Bennett (Baker), Eli. When you get into college, you don’t necessarily take that away, but you get more mature in your golf game. You take iron or 3-wood off the tee if you need to hit a fairway. Or if you’re 100 percent confident in your driver then you go ahead and hit it. This past week at the Oglethorpe we had a lot of par-4s where the fairways were only 15-20 yards wide and I didn’t hit an iron off the tee. I hit driver because I knew I would hit the fairway with it. It’s whatever club you’re most comfortable hitting off the tee or going into the green.”
Q: You’ve started to put several rounds together lately in the 60s. Feel like you’ve turned a corner in your game?
A: “For sure. I feel my mental game and physical game, it’s not at its peak, but it’s improved vastly since high school. Especially my mental game. I’ve worked on it a lot, just trying to stay positive on the golf course. Patience is the key word. When I was in high school I’d always get upset with myself for missing a green or missing a fairway or missing a putt. Now, I just put it behind me and move to the next hole.”
Q: Coming off this summer, what does that do for you heading into your sophomore season at UWF?
A: “It’s just building my confidence. I really needed this tournament at the Oglethorpe to prove to myself that I could post those numbers on a consistent basis and be a consistent player. I feel overjoyed that I got the opportunity, because I wasn’t even supposed to play in that tournament. I got called Monday morning saying I got a spot. I just took full advantage of it.”
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