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Just a swingin’… Ten-year-old Bryson Hardin collects T-C PGA Jr. Championship at The Virginian

BY IVAN SANDERS
STAR SPORTS EDITOR
BRISTOL – While the sweat was flowing from spectators watching the Tri-Cities PGA Jr. Amateur Championship at the exclusive Virginian Golf Course in Bristol, Roan Mountain’s version of a young Arnold Palmer in 10-year-old Bryson Hardin was playing the course as cool as a cucumber in the 10-11 boys championship.
The end result was another trophy to add to his already loaded case as Hardin fired a six-over-par round of 42 to capture the championship – his seventh championship in his last 11th tournaments as he prepares to play in the Nationals at Pawley’s Island in South Carolina in September.
He won by nine strokes over Kingsport’s Lane Maxwell who finished his round with a 51.
Hardin was solid on the day as he collected four pars on the championship course at hole number two and collected three consecutive pars on holes six through eight before a double bogey on the ninth and final hole to seal the championship.
The young man with a calm demeanor and laser focus found himself in a tight situation on the ninth hole after a good tee shot.
His approach landed in a sunken area just in front of the green on his approach shot and his third shot caught the green about sixty feet from the cup.
After a fantastic putt put him within five feet of the hole, all he had to do was to make sure that he didn’t blow up on the final putts to capture the title.
“My drive was great but my second shot just went short of the green and I was in that hole,” said Hardin about the final hole.”I chipped it short then had that putt and putted it in. It was a hard putt. And on the third hole, I had that putt that I lipped it as well.”
He was asked how he calms himself before making a big putt like the one on the final hole.
“See it, feel it, trust it,” said Hardin. “I saw that in a movie called Seven Days in Utopia.”
Hardin has been playing for six years and may not have gotten his start the typical way as he dipped his toes into the sport as a way to have something to do on his farm where he lives and works for enjoyment.
The sport has also allowed Hardin and his father to do something together as his dad, Jesse, serves as his golf caddy and provides some invaluable information over the course of a tournament, something that the young Hardin is very happy that his dad is willing to do with him.
One thing that Bryson would like to see is more kids his age take to the game.
“Yeah, at my school especially because I am the only one at my school that plays,” said Hardin. “They say that golf is dumb and just go on about it.
Hardin takes the game very seriously and even is set up at home to help with one facet of his game.
“I think my chipping is the strongest part of my game because I can do that at home every day,” said Hardin. “I have a hole outside and I can chip at it.”
Hardin is quick to admit that his weakness probably comes from one particular iron in his bag.
“I am going to say my nine iron because I hit it up in the air a lot and it just doesn’t go as far as it should and I don’t like that club at all,” added Hardin.
The young golfer said the course was the second toughest he has had to play putting the Grand Dunes just ahead of the Virginian.
Hardin wouldn’t be the golfer he is today without a good golf coach and the help of his father.
Jeremy Beachner, who is the head golf professional at Johnson City Country Club, has taken Hardin under his wings and the young player has been a model student absorbing everything that he can from his instructor.
“He is a fighter,” said Beachner of Hardin. “I can think of times that we have been on the range and trying to get him to do something specific with his motion and he will not leave the range until he gets it right.
“Sometimes that may be 20 minutes and sometimes it takes him two hours. His determination is unreal.
“He wants to take it all the way to the top and its awesome to be around. I hope more juniors with him or around him gets that same desire for the next wave of golfers to be just like him. It’s an honor to be around him.”
It didn’t come as a surprise to Beachner that Hardin was able to maneuver his way through the nine holes on the tough Virginian as his young pupil did in the tournament.
After taking a moment to revisit his effort, Hardin was already looking for ways to improve.
“Any time you can shot a score like that at a club like this is amazing,” Beachner said. “The crazy part is when he came and saw me, he said he hadn’t chipped very well and said he could have chipped better and been four or five shots better.
“That’s just the type of person he is. He is happy for a second and then we start analyzing what we have to do next time to get better. Any time you can go home with a medal or trophy its very rewarding to show the hard work and long hours you put in. I am proud of him for sure.”
Beachner said one of the toughest parts about teaching young people golf is to make sure that they are having fun.
If the pressure of winning awards and trophies override finding joy in the sport, the outcome will never be what young people want it to be.
“For me as a teacher and coach it’s not so much about winning or winning medals or trophies as it is to having fun,” commented Beachner. “I feel like for me personally as a teacher and coach, if I can get them to have fun the results of playing well come after that.
“Obviously, in Bryson’s scenario, he has to work hard and he gets that. If he doesn’t work, he doesn’t shoot the numbers. If you look at his tournament resume, and you can see a couple of days where he didn’t play well and you ask him “Bryson did you practice” and he will say “No, I didn’t” and there’s the answer for you.
“Fun for sure but you have to have the dedication and want to do it.”
While many parents enjoy coaching their children’s softball and baseball teams, even though golf isn’t so much a team sport as an individual, Bryson’s father, Jesse, serves as both a caddy and a side-by-side coach for his son.
“It’s very special but it’s tough,” said Jesse about being the on-links coach for Bryson. “It’s the same scenario as coaching your own kid – you don’t want to do but deep down you want to do it.
“On the other hand, you have to be the coach and be that soothing hand because one bad shot and a kid like that can get down and you have to be there to bring them back up.
“I think its good to have a father there to bring him back up.”
Jesse said it was especially helpful having someone like Beachner who can work Bryson through different scenarios that could come up during a tournament and how to play through those situations.
“He works with his coach playing scenarios, maybe a driving range, working on like maybe a bad shot to the left and they work on that. He has worked really hard the last two weeks since he knew he was coming up of practicing getting out of the rough.
“Up here it’s different from any other place we play when you get in the rough – it’s championship rough. It’s what the pro’s play in. I was tickled the way he got out of it. He may not have been but for me or any average golfer to get out of that should have been happy.
“It’s a tough place to come and play.”
The day was extremely hot with temperatures in the low 90’s and a sun that would cook an egg on the pavement, but the heat didn’t seem to affect the young golfer at all.
His father said that was probably a side effect of being raised on a farm and having to work out in the hot sun, unlike some young people who might have withered in such extreme circumstances such as the heat and sun.
“Being out in hayfields and stuff like that, I think that he has his stamina built up,” stated Jesse. “He has played in some really hot places and we have been on the course with snow on the ground, He’s one tough kid with a lot of heart.
“The key is to keep them hydrated and keep them cooled down and they will be all right.”
The sport of golf is one where everything that goes wrong or that goes right is reflective of the person holding the club at the time the shot is made. That is a positive side benefit of having a young player on the course because they have no one else to blame except themselves.
“Golf is an individual sport,” said the elder Hardin. “If you go out, you play the course yourself even though we were in a competition today, Bryson played himself.
“It’s all you – if you make a bad shot it’s you and if you hit a good shot you did that. So some kids can’t perform on teams like that.
“Golf is the most stressful but it should be the most enjoyable sport because you don’t have the crowd or fans screaming down your neck like you would in basketball, football, or even baseball. It’s an all individual sport.”
Even though the path may have some doglegs and some days might be better than others score-wise, the future looks bright for Bryson who said he hopes to have a long career on the links.
However, for Jesse, it’s not the trophies or awards that his son puts in the trophy case that means the most of what he is seeing coming from his son playing the sport of golf.
“For what it’s done for my son – it’s a gentleman sport and teaches you manners, respect, and self-discipline. All these trophies and awards and stuff are nice but if you can raise a nice young man that is fit to be in society then you have done something.”