Bogalusa youth excelling at golf

Published 2:49 am Saturday, January 23, 2016

Annunciation Catholic School’s Owen Hayden is excelling on the golf course.

The seventh grader has captured several tournaments in his young career, including a U.S. Kids Golf Tournament earlier this month after carding an 80 at Copper Mill Golf Club in Zachary. The tournament was a one-day event.

Hayden, a Bogalusa resident, said he started off pretty well in the tournament, but didn’t finish well.

“I think it sort of got in my head the way that I was playing well,” Hayden said. “After that, I started playing bad and it got in my head that I might’ve just lost the tournament because of that, which made me probably even more messed up,” Hayden said.

Hayden said there were tough playing conditions that day.

“It was wet, windy and cold out there,” Hayden said.

In 2015, Hayden was invited to play in the Allstate Sugar Bowl Tommy Moore Memorial Junior Golf Championship at English Turn, Dec. 28-29. The event is an annual tournament, inviting the top-ranked junior golfers from across the country to compete in front of college coaches each year.

Tournament director Randy Mason said Hayden was invited to compete in the event because of his play on the Kelly Gibson Junior Golf Tour. Mason said Hayden winning the Tour Championship gave him the final nod for entry into the tournament. That day, he won the 12-13 year old age group in the Kelly Gibson Tour Championship at TPC in Westwego after shooting a 75, just three strokes off of his best round overall. Hayden won by two strokes. For the tour, he competes in the 12-13-year old age group.

The tour’s Player of the Year automatically qualifies, and the rest of the field is selected by the Kelly Gibson Foundation’s Tournament Committee. The selection is all based on skill level for this event.

The Kelly Gibson Junior Golf Tour is one of the tours that Hayden competes on.

Hayden, 13, was the youngest player in his age group, 13-15s. He had a 176 combined total for the two-day event and finished 20th of 21 golfers. The winner of the event was Damin Strydom with a 141 for the two rounds. Hayden’s age group featured golfers from Louisiana, Texas, Mississippi, Alabama, Illinois and Oklahoma.

Hayden finished strong in the Kelly Gibson Junior Golf Tour. A few days before his win at the TPC, he took second place after shooting a 75 at the BC Cup Invitational at Oak Harbor Golf Club. He tied for first, but lost in a playoff. He also won a July 9 tournament with a 74. He won that event by nine strokes.

During the tour, Hayden also had another second-place finish on June 11 (79) and a third-place finish June 25 (80).

Most of the tournaments that Hayden competes in take place between March and August.
The offseason is a time where he makes any big changes he needs to in order to improve his game. He’ll still compete in tournaments.

“My coaches help me a lot and they tell everybody that the winter and right before the summer is kind of the time when you make all of your swing changes that you need to,” Hayden said. “All of the big things that you couldn’t change during the summer because you had a tournament the next week, that’s what you do in the winter. If like your clubs are getting too small or you need new clubs or something, that’s when you get them.”

Hayden said the strength of his game is probably his wedge game.

“I like my wedges. It’s a club that I can do just about anything with,” Hayden said. “I can hit a high shot if I want to, hit a low shot, spin it, let it roll out. It’s probably my favorite club and it’s definitely my high point. That’s what saved me a lot on a few of those holes in the past tournament.”

Hayden said if he’s inside of his distance for it, that’s the club he chooses. He said he feels the most comfortable with it.

Hayden takes lessons at the Rob Noel Golf Academy at Money Hill Golf and Country Club in Abita Springs.

Noel said the kids come out about four hours per week. He said instructors have different things for the golfers to do to improve their game like mechanics, performance work, mental training and fitness. Noel said they try to develop the kids’ games to be well rounded.

Noel said that about every four years, they have a wave of kids that they feel like are going to be exceptional players and that they feel can go to college and possibly beyond.

“I think Owen is the leader of that next wave,” Noel said. “He’s a leader in our group. The younger kids are looking up to him and he’s a good all-around kid. He’s very polite and very dedicated to what he’s doing.”

Noel said that at 13, kids don’t it the ball very far, but said that Hayden hits it straight.

“His short game is very good, which allows him to shoot the scores he’s shooting,” Noel said. “He moved up to an older group this year, so his scores don’t reflect how good of a player he is. When Owen moved up, he had to play longer courses, which might have hurt his scores a little bit, but he’ll learn to adapt and his scores will come back down.”

Noel said that Nick Drezins, who is Noel’s Director of Junior Golf Development, also deserves a lot of credit for Owen’s improvement. Noel said that Drezins has worked with Hayden over the last year in his development.

Hayden plays his next tournament Sunday, Jan. 24 in Zachary.