Local golfer finishes 139th at NAIA nationals
Leighton Bearchell got back into Moose Jaw on Monday and was already on the links by Tuesday.
Leighton Bearchell just wrapped up his rookie year at Wayland Baptist in Texas. He finished tied for 139th overall at the NAIA national tournament. File photo
Bearchell just wrapped up his rookie year at Wayland Baptist University in Texas, finishing tied for 139th at the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics (NAIA) nationals.
"It was pretty fun all and all, being that it was down in Daytona Beach,” said Bearchell of the experience. "The golf was pretty fun too. The course was in great shape. I didn't play as well as I was hoping to, but it was still a pretty great experience.
Bearchell opened with a round of 74, which put him tied for 46th. The second day did not go well for him, as he shot an 89 and dropped all the way down to 145th. He regrouped with a round of 76 on the final day.
"I wanted to finish better, but that second round definitely killed me. I started respectable and ended fairly respectable, so I can definitely walk away on a positive note, knowing that I can shoot a decent number out there,” he said.
The issues on the second day resulted from a bad start on the tee box.
"It is a pretty tight course to begin with and it is pretty hard to make pars when you are hitting from the trees on every shot,” he said.
As a rookie, Bearchell did battle some nerves, but he was able to use his prior experience to stay calm and play his game on the course.
"It was a little nerve-racking. It was different. I've been to a few national tournaments with junior nationals, but this was definitely a different level,” said Bearchell. "At nationals, I was surrounded by the best players in the country. In the NAIA, there are some international players from all over the world. It was pretty awesome."
Wayland Baptist finished 14th overall at nationals, which was not where they wanted to be.
“It was certainly a little disappointing coming 14th as we were ranked first overall coming in to it,” said Bearchell. “I don’t think the guys are too down … we had a great year and we won five or six times. It was a great year still even if nationals didn’t go as well as we would have hoped.”
Being able to play year-round in Texas helped develop certain qualities in Bearchell’s game, including mental strength.
"It was great learning experience throughout the year. It helped fine tune my game and I feel pretty confident in coming into tournaments this summer,” he explained.
“One thing I learned throughout the year was having fun and finding the right amount of care. You can’t care too much out there, but if you don’t care at all, it is bad too. It is finding that right amount is huge for me.”
Bearchell will be heading up to Elk Ridge in Waskesiu to work and play golf this summer.
“The head pro up there is Brad Cook and I know him through nationals,” he said. “I am sure he will be able to help me with my game.”
He also plans to play in amateur events throughout the province, as he continues to work on his driving and golf game as a whole.
“A win here or there would be nice, but I want to see where my game is at and how it has matured over the year,” he said. “I do feel more comfortable with my game. I am looking forward to the summer.”
Bearchell has already signed with Wayland Baptist for next fall, with the same scholarship he won last year. He has pre-registered for his courses in business administration, with classes starting at the end of August.
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