Sunday June 24, 2012

The new golf coach at High Point University may receive an unexpected and welcome gift this fall.

Recent Pittsfield High School graduate Hayden Jarck will be attending the school in High Point, N.C. and attempt to make the school's golf team as a walk-on.

The way Jarck's game is improving, he's a good bet to make Greg Flesher's squad, and at some point, and perhaps sooner rather than later, make a big contribution.

"His game is getting so much better," said George Jarck, Hayden's father, after he and his son finished third with a best-ball even-par 71 in last Sunday's Allied Father-Son tournament at Stockbridge Golf Club.

Jarck is looking forward to the opportunity awaiting him in North Carolina.

"I'm very excited," he said. "It's a good Division I program in the Big South Conference. The coach is new, so he didn't recruit the players who are there, and I feel my game is headed in the right direction."

Dad says his son wasn't recruited by college programs, but that's because he really wasn't on anyone's radar screen prior to his senior season, and college golf coaches also don't exactly look at the Berkshires as fertile recruiting ground.

"Hayden has only really been seriously playing golf since the summer between his sophomore and junior years," George said. "In a year, he's going to be a kid any coach would love to have."

As a junior, Jarck was Pittsfield High's No. 2 or 3 player, but he only broke 40 twice in matches. As a senior, he consistently broke 40, made the All-Eagle team and was arguably one of the county's two best players along with Hoosac Valley Eagle MVP Chad Alibozek.

A combination of talent, love of the game and hard work are proving to be a formula for a quick and consistent improvement.

"He's not your typical high school kid," said George of his lanky, long-hitting son. "He's usually up by 6:30 and at the course by 7. He's been working on his game all day, every day. His work ethic is fabulous. It will be a good day when his skill set catches up with his desire."

Berkshire Hills Country Club head professional Josh Hillman confirms dad's analysis.

"There are days when I get here at 6 a.m. and Hayden's already here hitting balls," Hillman said. "He'll play 18 holes, have lunch and play another 18."

Hillman believes he's learned the work ethic from George, who played professional tennis against some of the world's top players.

"I think he's adopted his work mentality from his dad," Hillman said. "Hayden is detail oriented. He dots all his I's and crosses all his T's."

There was a day recently at Berkshire Hills, the home course for father and son, where the Jarck's' true potential was on display.

"I birdied 11, 12, 13, 14 and 15," Jarck said of a streak during a round of 5-under 67 in a club tournament. "I shot 31 [on the back] and I only birdied one [of three] par 5s. I've never gone that low."

"That 31 lets him know that he can light it up," said George.

Well, at least he can at his home course.

"I have a lot more confidence when I play at Berkshire Hills," Hayden admits. "The next step is learning to do that anywhere."

Indeed, after just missing qualifying for the Massachusetts Open at Berkshire Hills when he shot a 75, he struggled to an 84 at Glen Ellen Country Club in the Mass. Amateur qualifier. There are going to be bumps in the road like that, but playing on tough courses against good competition is critical to long-term success.

"They really had [Glen Ellen] set up tough," Hayden said. "But there's no substitute for gaining experience."

Jarck will attempt to qualify for U.S. Amateur as he continues to challenge himself in the best competitions available. He will also play in some junior events sponsored by the Northeastern New York PGA section.

"You've got to keep putting yourself in the fire," George said.

You can bet the members are Berkshire Hills will be rooting for Jarck as he moves forward.

"He's just a great, fantastic kid," Hillman said. "He's polite, respectful, understands etiquette and appreciates the history of the game."

According to High Point's athletic website, Jarck will potentially be playing for a coach who has a record of helping his players improve. Flesher was previously at Pfeiffer University -- coincidentally coaching Tom Sennett, who teamed with his father, Ed, to win last Sunday's Father-Son -- where all of his players improved their scoring averages in their second seasons under his guidance.

Seems like a perfect pairing.