Hillsboro senior Blake Hammond has won the JCAA golf championship twice.
Russell Korando photo
On a cold, windy day last month at the Raintree Country Club in Hillsboro, Blake Hammond did something he’d never done before.
He made a hole in one.
In a match against St. Pius X on March 21, the first full day of spring, the senior from Hillsboro took a 7-iron out of his bag and lofted a drive on the 180-yard, par-3 second hole. The ball hit six inches to the side of the pin and rolled backward into the cup.
That Callaway 4 ball is now retired to a place of honor at Hammond’s home, a daily reminder of that moment of perfection.
Each week last spring was a stepping stone toward the state tournament at Sedalia Country Club for Hammond, a two-time Class 3 state qualifier who finished four strokes behind Crystal City senior Tyler Andrews for the Jefferson County Activities Association championship.
After that, Hammond shot 5-over-par at Ste. Genevieve Golf Club to come in third in District 2. A few days later, he punched his ticket to state after finishing 11th at the sectional meet in Crown Pointe in Farmington. As a team, the Hawks missed the state cut by six strokes.
At Sedalia, Hammond concluded his junior year by scoring a two-day total of 165, good for a tie for 46th. He enters his senior year as the unquestioned No. 1 Hillsboro golfer and odds-on favorite to win the JCAA.
Hammond, the league champion in 2015 and 2016, recorded his best round of the young season so far March 26 at the Birch Creek Golf Club in Union, when he shot a 1-over-par 73. Like anyone else participating in an outdoor sport this spring, golfers have had to deal with wet and wild conditions.
“We’ve played on a lot of soggy courses,” Hammond said. “If it’s just raining, we play.”
Two areas Hammond said he’s improved this season are using his irons and consistency around the greens.
Head coach Brian Sucharski said Hammond has a solid, all-around game.
“He’s been developing his short game and working on his course management,” Sucharski said.
The coach added that Hammond has learned a lot from his two state appearances.
“This year we need Blake to lead our team, not only by his play on the course, but by being a mentor to our younger players,” Sucharski said.
Senior Trey Craig and juniors Nate Nicholas and Frank Tello, a sectional qualifier in 2017, are the most experienced Hawks behind Hammond. Stefan Hassell, Jacob Hickson, Andrew Maynard, Chase Luby and Zeek Blaylock are competing for spots on the varsity.
Sucharski said Tello hits the ball far and knows his way around a green, so when his short irons are working, he has a chance to do well. Nicholas’ distance has improved every year and he’s doing a good job with course management. Craig had limited varsity experience last season, and his summer play helped him become more consistent.
The Hawks shot 344 and beat Crystal City by seven strokes to claim last year’s JCAA title. Sucharski said he wants this year’s team to improve on a daily basis and they’ve set some realistic goals.
“Ultimately, we want our kids to have fun at a challenging game that they can play for the rest of their lives,” he said.