If someone had asked Glenelg's Steven Segrist over the summer what his goals for his junior season were, his answer would have been somewhat surprising.
At the time, the first-team all-county performer wasn't thinking about under-par rounds or winning championships. Instead, in those months leading up to this fall, Segrist was thinking in much simpler terms. Hitting the ball straight, for example, was at the top of the list.
"Between the end of last season and like March, I grew close to three or four inches and it threw everything off. I couldn't hit my driver in the fairway and, really, my game was all over the place," Segrist said. "That was probably my longest stretch of bad golf in a long time."
Even as the season was set to begin in August, there were questions lingering. But after taking a couple regular-season rounds to get settled in, Segrist suddenly found a groove that took him to levels not even he could have anticipated.
The Gladiators' top guy finished the regular season third in the county in scoring average (25.3 points a match) for the second straight year and then really turned things on in the postseason. Segrist tied for third at the county championship, one shot out of a playoff, before breaking through for monumental victories at the District V and state championship tournaments.
It was because of that strong finish on the state's biggest stages that Segrist has been named this fall's Columbia Flier/Howard County Times Boys Golfer of the Year.
"We were out playing Fairway Hills right before Districts and it seemed like he was finally enjoying golf again … he had figured things out," Glenelg coach Chris Beil said. "Golf is a game where one day you have it and one day you don't, but Steven found a way to have it for two straight weeks at the perfect time."
Based on his first two years of high school, there were definitely signs that Segrist was due to break out. After all, he was a first-team performer that had lost in a playoff at last year's District Championships. Breaking through into the winner's circle, however, was a hurdle not easy to clear.
For Segrist, the name of the game became fairways and greens. As he struggled to hit his driver during the preseason, he decided to almost eliminate the club altogether and primarily hit his 3-wood off the tee instead.
"Being bigger and a little stronger definitely helped me gain a lot of distance and that allowed me to get away with hitting a 3-wood," he said. "With basically an extra 20 yards, I was around where I was last year with my driver."
Finding more fairways allowed him to take advantage of the best part of his game: his iron play. It was his pinpoint accuracy on his approach shots that allowed him to surge to first place at districts in mid-October.
After trailing early, he emerged from a tightly packed group on the back nine to win by two shots with a round of 72.
"What I did the year before, losing in the playoff, I think it allowed me to be more relaxed this year," Segrist said. "I felt much more prepared for the pressure."
Using the momentum from the victory, he came back out a week later at states and raced to a share of the lead following the opening round. Then, on the final day, he played steady golf to get himself into a playoff, setting himself up to defeat Wootton's Justin Feldman on the first extra hole. Segrist's victory made it three straight years that a Howard County golfer has won the individual boys state title and put him in the conversation alongside some of the all-time greats.
"I'm very proud of him and it was great to see him mature this year," Beil said. "The most exciting thing is he's now thinking that college golf at the big time level is a real possibility. He's already solidified his name in Glenelg history and still has a shot to come back and try to repeat again next year."
Named to the all-county first-team squad are:
Bennett Buch, Marriotts Ridge. After setting the bar incredibly high as a freshman with victories at the District V and state championship tournaments, Buch didn't pick up any postseason victories this fall. But that didn't mean that this season wasn't a success. In fact, during the regular season, he improved his scoring average by more than two points to capture the scoring title with an average of 26.6. He shot under par in three of his five matches during the regular season.
Buch was around the leaders in all three postseason tournaments. He finished one shot out of a playoff at the county championship tournament, firing a total of 50 points to tie for third. At districts he tied for second with a round of 74. Then at states he wrapped up his season by tying for eighth with a two-day total of 153.
Brett Gold, River Hill. The Hawks' senior was the unquestioned leader on a team that finished the regular season 7-4. Gold never shot less than 20 points in any match this fall, going for a season-high 27 points in a victory over Centennial. His final average of 22.9 points was tied for eighth best among county boys.
At the county championship tournament, Gold fired a round of 47 points to finish alone in seventh place. At districts, he finished 17th. His score of 82 left him one shot short of making it to states.