Talent can only take one so far in the game of golf. The passion has to be there too.
Silver Creek senior Ben Harding has been lucky to maintain both, and he had quite the role model to not only introduce him to the game as a child, but to be there cheering him along every step of the way.
“He and his brother were about 6 or 7,” his grandfather Dick Vossler said. “I think the first place I took them was over to (Haystack Mountain Golf Course) in Boulder. … It’s a nine-hole dog track. We’d start playing and we’d get around to about maybe six or seven and they’d get a little bored, so we’d all tee off and then I’d lose them.
“They’d be over in the weeds looking for golf balls, and the weeds were taller than they were. The other thing we would do, when we got to number nine, which you have to hit across the creek, I’d get them all fired up about how hard they really had to swing. Both of them, for quite a few rounds, would just put it right in the creek and then we’d go get wet trying to find them.”
Those early days on the course paved the way for Harding’s strong high school career, which ended last month with a tie for 13th at the Class 4A state tournament. A year earlier, he placed third in that final competition and lagged just three strokes behind the state champion.
His senior-year performance, along with the amalgamation of his entire high school career, has earned Harding the Longmont Times-Call golfer of the year honor. He credits much of his success throughout his time on the links to his grandfather as well as Keith Martin, the golf professional at the City of Longmont Twin Peaks Golf Course.
His introduction to the tournament side of the game around age 12 opened his eyes to the possibilities, and he hasn’t looked back since.
“It was so much different than going and playing nine holes with my grandpa, my brother,” Harding said. “It’s a lot different. It’s every shot counts, you actually got to make that putt and all that stuff. I just loved playing in tournaments, where it was like it’s all on you. You’re out there for four hours, you’ve got to handle yourself, you’ve got to handle your emotions and your game. That was really fun to me, just trying to figure out how I could get better at that.”
In recent years, his high school coach, Tyler Bishop, illuminated him on the mental side of the game. The composure, thoughtfulness and focus that resulted only served to elevate his game more.
It reached a peak, one of several, last fall.
“My wife and I were on our anniversary over at Four Seasons and during dinner, we got a call,” Vossler recounted. “It was Ben and he had his first hole-in-one up at Twin Peaks but it was so dark, he didn’t see it go in. When he got back to the clubhouse, it was all locked up so he didn’t have to buy anybody a beer.”
Now that his high school days are behind him, Harding is looking toward the future, hoping he can carry his golf career forward. He’s already received an offer from Hastings College in Nebraska, which belongs to the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics. He’s hoping that in the next few months, he can attract the attention of a few higher-level Division-II schools and some lower-level D-I programs.
“I’ve been telling coaches I’ll walk on,” Harding said. “I just want to be on the team because I feel like I can get a lot better quickly.”
Vossler won’t know how to spend his time over the next few years, now that he won’t have local high school tournaments to attend.