BY JEFF FALK
PRICETOWN – A season does not a career make.
In the same way, a round does not a year make.
Just like a hole does not define a round.
Golf can be a very cruel and unforgiving sport.
On a gloomy Monday morning at the 6,648-yard, par-72 Golden Oaks Golf Club, Nolan Hoover experienced the good and the bad – both the highs and lows – the game has to offer, during the one-day, 18-hole PIAA Eastern Region Class AAA Championships. The Cedar Crest junior posted a disappointing 89, after taking an 11 at the 347-yard par-four third hole – the 13th hole of a round that Hoover started at Number Eight.
Hoover hit three straight shots into the water that protects the third hole’s green, after his tee shot had him about 150 yards from the flag. At that point in his round, Hoover was five-over par. The qualifying standard for the upcoming PIAA Championships in York ended up being 77, or five-over par.
The 11 that Hoover was forced to take was the highest score on one hole by any of the members of the 52-player field.
Hoover was the only Lebanon County scholastic golfer still alive, after qualifying for regionals with a 78-77=155 at the District Three Class AAA Championships at Briarwood East in York on October 5-6. Hoover was attempting to become the first Cedar Crest player since Ryan Schneiter in 2004 to qualify for the PIAA Championships – and the first one from Lebanon County in recent memory.
Central York junior Carson Bacha claimed the Class AAA medalist honors with a three-under par score of 69.
“I think it would be easier to let it go if I miss-hit it,” said Hoover of his round’s fateful turn at Number Three. “But that leads me to believe it was more of a mental error than a physical mistake. I’ll get over. But it’ll take some time. That’s golf.”
“It’s a round of golf. It’s not a hole of golf,” said Cedar Crest coach Rick Dissinger. “The one thing about kids is that they’re resilient. It’s amazing how quickly they can forget about things. He’ll be disappointed a little bit. He did acheive his goals. He was playing his best golf at the end of the season. He does have a year left. You’ve got to take the positives and learn from the mistake.
“I think he could’ve rebounded from the first one (approach shot into the pond),” continued Dissinger. “Make six, go to seven-over and have a par-five left. In that moment, you’re so focused. All that adrenalin left. Once you lose that focus a little bit, it’s hard to get it back.”
On his approach shot at the par-four third hole, Hoover had 156 yards to the stick and changed clubs twice before settling on a six-iron. His iron shot fell a few yards short of the elevated green and into the drink, as did his next two attempts following penalty drops.
After his 11, Hoover endured a double bogey, a bogey and a triple bogey over his next three holes. He finished with the only birdie of his round – at the 389-yard, par-four seventh hole.
“I had 156 in, but the wind was picking up,” said Hoover. “I took three extra clubs, just to be sure. I took a good swing. I hit it good. I hit it the way I wanted to. I never thought one swing could end a season. It was crazy.
“After that, I thought I was done,” added Hoover. “So I tried to have fun. It’s better than being miserable out there.”
“I think there was a little more wind than he thought,” said Dissinger. “He left himself 156 and the wind just kicked up. I saw him change clubs twice. I was hoping he was going to take enough club. He hit six-iron and that certainly was enough club. It sounded pure. It wasn’t a chunk shot. It was probably three yards short.
“You could see the frustration,” Dissinger added. ” ‘I just can’t believe that happened.’ A six-iron from 156 should’ve been enough.”
Hoover had built his momentum by being solid from tee to green. He began his day by parring four of his first five holes, and was a very respectable four-over par through ten holes.
“I thought things were going pretty good,” said Hoover. “I made a couple of mental mistakes, but other than that I was doing pretty good. I’m pleased how I played 13 holes, and one swing got to me.
“My goal coming in was just to keep the ball in play and try to stay warm,” Hoover continued. “I didn’t really have a number in mind. It was neat to play in this event. It was more competitive than I thought it was going to be.”
“For 13 holes, he was playing his best golf of the season,” said Dissinger. “He had a lot of birdie looks and good, solid pars. He was playing smart golf. He put himself in the right positions at a lot of holes. He hit one bad shot.
“I was hoping he would play the way he did at districts,” continued Dissinger. “I thought anything in the upper 70s would give him an opportunity to go to states. The maturity he showed was the thing that I was most proud of. He just played within himself and made smart decisions. That’s a sign of maturity and that he’s improving as a player. It’s fun to see kids put it together and have success.”
Hoover three-putted the 533-yard, par-five 18th – his 11th hole of the day – for the bogey that made him five-over. But he came back with pars at the 393-yard first and the 380-yard second holes.
“My season was like, unbelievable,” said Hoover, who had qualified for districts as a freshman and a sophomore. “I wasn’t expecting to make it this far. My goal was to make it to the second day of districts. But I surpassed that.”
“He had the midset of making it to the second day of districts, but he got here,” said Dissinger of Hoover. “Based on his play during the season, you didn’t think he was going to get here. But a lot of his focus was on this time of the year. He likes golf, but it’s not his life. I think the mental part of the game was where he matured most.”
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