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The Journal Gazette

  • Aubree Reichel | The Journal Gazette Homestead's Garrett Willis practices on Chestnut Hills' driving range Wednesday in preparation for today's Warsaw Regional at Stonehenge Golf Club.

Thursday, June 07, 2018 1:10 am

Spartan taking mature approach

Senior not relying on record sectional to help at regional

AUBREE REICHEL | The Journal Gazette

Golf Regionals

Warsaw at Stonehenge, 8 a.m.

Feeder sectionals: East Noble, Fort Wayne Canterbury, Northridge, Peru, South Bend Riley, Warsaw

Local teams: DeKalb, Carroll, Angola, Bishop Dwenger, Homestead, Canterbury, Warsaw, Columbia City

Local individuals: Reid Zimmerman, Leo; Cole Thomas, Fremont; Levi Follett, Garrett; Grant Norman, Blackhawk Christian; Jimmy Bunner, Blackhawk Christian; Stephan Bolan, Bishop Luers

Muncie Central

at The Players Club, 8 a.m.

Feeder sectionals: Greenfield-Central, Indianapolis Cathedral, Monroe Central, Noblesville, Norwell, Richmond

Local team: Bellmont

Local individual: Spencer Schwartz, Bluffton

Homestead golfer Garrett Willis doesn't mix work with play. Despite having spent four years with the Spartans' student radio station and the golf team, Willis does not do play-by-play during his rounds.

“I try not to get into my own head like that,” he said with a laugh. “What I like to do sometimes, when I make a big putt in a round, and I picture myself doing a fist pump. I'll picture the TV crew filming it from different angles and replaying it as if I'm in the Ryder Cup or something, the slow-mo fist pump; very Tiger-esque. That's the extent of what I would do. Silly stuff after the round is done.”

But the Valparaiso recruit will continue to pursue both radio and golf in college, after the business at hand is completed. The next step in that process is the Warsaw Regional today at Stonehenge Golf Club.

Willis won the Canterbury Sectional on Friday with a 6-under 66, a school record.

“What we did at sectional has absolutely zero impact on what we do (today),” Willis said. “That means absolutely nothing. I can't get ahead of myself and feel confident about that round.

“This round, I start at even par. That round, I started at even par. I have to be able to approach every single round with the same mental maturity.

“If we can get guys on this team to do that (today), not only do I like my chances to put myself in position to at least advance to state individually, I like our chances to advance to state for the fifth straight year.”

The mental aspect has been a huge part of Willis' development during his senior season. Last week, he said he met Dr. Robert K. Winters, a renowned sports psychologist, author and speaker, who's based in Orlando, Florida.

“I think (the 66 at sectional is) a true testament to what I've been working toward mentally,” said Willis, who added that Winters, who earned bachelor's and master's degrees from Ball State University, drove home several points.

Willis said Winters advised him about “staying in the moment, being able to approach every shot the same, not hit that shot unless you're 100 percent committed to it, and trusting myself.”

“I put those things into the process last Friday,” Willis said. “It really came and paid dividends that day. If I can stick to the same process, staying patient, not forcing anything, that's what helped me then, that's what will help me (at regional).”

Willis tied for 35th at last year's state championship at Prairie View Golf Club in Carmel with a 36-hole 9-over 153 with round scores of 78 and 75.

While the mental development and maturity have been important, Willis has spent a lot of time practicing on different aspects of his game, not just going out and shooting 18 holes.

Among the aspects he's working on is putting.

“I think over the last three years, I've struggled to get mid-range putts to fall and also be consistent inside five feet,” he said. “This year, I've gained a lot of confidence from short range, and I've been getting those 10- to 20-footers to go, as well. Those are what's really helped shrink my score.

“It's a lot of practice time out on the range, ... and being able to work a lot and grind on the putting green.”

areichel@jg.net