Sophomore Golfer Takes District Title


Sophomore John Olsen takes a swing during a round of golf. He finished first place in the Individual District Championship this season. “I remember being frustrated on the first 6 holes because nothing was going my way…but I just kinda relaxed and realized I was five strokes back of the leader and anything could happen,” Olsen said. “I remembered just to fight for that second spot to go to regionals.”

Quincy Steidle, Sports Editor

On October 1, State High sophomore John Olsen took first place in the PIAA District VI Boys’ Golf Championship in Hollidaysburg, sinking a twenty foot putt to win on the first playoff hole. This victory guaranteed him, along with Hollidaysburg’s Eric Davis, a trip to the PIAA West Regional Competition at Tom’s Run Course in Blairsville.

“I started playing golf when I was about three years old,” Olsen said. “My dad would take me out to see if I would behave on the golf course, and if I would behave, I would be able to come back.” Olsen’s game has progressed a bit since then, going from golf course behavior to winning Districts on a playoff hole to advance to the Individual Regional Championship this year.

“John had a rough start at Districts,” Coach Greg Wilson said. “He was +4 after five holes to start. Then he settled down and got busy going after his goal of District champion. With a hole left, John was down a stroke and hit a wayward tee shot. He got a great break by hitting a tree and having his ball kick back to the fairway.” Olsen’s lucky break allowed him to land his next shot within six feet of the hole and make the putt to advance to the playoff round.

“I just kinda relaxed and realized I was five strokes back of the leader and anything could happen,” Olsen said. In his words, Olsen was “dialed in” on the playoff hole, his first drive travelling an impressive 310 yards on the fly. His next shot, a 56-degree wedge left him with a 20-foot putt, which he sunk to win the championship.

“I remember just thinking to get it into a two-foot radius,” Olsen said. “When I hit the putt it started tracking to the hole and right before it dropped, I stepped to the side and did a Tiger [Woods] fist bump. It was a great feeling.” While he appreciates Tiger for being Tiger, Olsen considers Brooks Koepka to be the best golfer in the world, and he hopes to follow in Koepka’s footsteps, playing golf at the college level and hopefully professionally. 

“We will see where life takes me,” Olsen said. Where it seems to take him most often, in the meantime, is the golf course. Olsen practices about 18 hours a week or more, working to improve all facets of his game. In addition to the physical side of the game, he also hones his mental approach, recognizing that a champion must be a complete athlete. Until recently, Olsen had a bedtime routine to help enhance his game. Every night, he would close his eyes and focus only on hitting 25 golf balls in his mind. However, this habit has given way, yielding what Olsen sees as better results, and he is able to focus in the tee box on simply hitting the ball with correct form.

“John has a great sense of humor and doesn’t get too worked up and let mistakes defeat him,” Wilson said.  Nothing seems to bother Olsen on the course, but he does have a more superstitious side. He follows his pregame routine, driving on the range for 15 minutes and taking putting practice for five. During play, Olsen makes sure to stash his glove in his back left pocket, and the tees and pencil go in the left pocket. Greg Norman pants are a must while playing in a tournament, but vests are a no-no due to his playing a catastrophic round the last time he wore one.

“John is our number one player; he is one of the major reasons we were successful in our league, at the Mid Penn Finals, and in our Championship run,” Wilson said. “He can turn it on when we need him to help the team.” That is exactly what Olsen did for the first nine holes of the Regional match, coming out hot despite the cold start to the day. The competitors were held back from play because of a one-hour frost delay on the course which limited their pre-match practice shots on the driving range. Olsen began by shooting one under par on the front half of the course, but scored a par, double bogey and birdie on the next three holes to return to par. Olsen followed up with two strong shots, spotting him 20 yards from the hole. He sunk the putt for an eagle.

“If I were to make the putt I would have been leading the tournament,” Olsen said. “But instead I go down to mark my ball and it wasn’t mine.” This infraction led to a two stroke penalty and Olsen had to hit the ball from the previous spot. He scrambled to score an 8 for the hole, a triple bogey.

“At that moment I knew I was done,” Olsen said. “It definitely hurt but it is a confidence booster to just keep going and eventually you will come out on top.” Olsen is in his second season of high school golf, so he still has two more years of State High golf, and the future is very bright for Olsen, as well as for the rest of the team.

“[Olsen] will be a great leader in the team’s future. He is only a sophomore, so he has time to strengthen his weaknesses and sharpen his strengths. I am very excited about the future of State College Golf,” Wilson said. While the golf season is over, Olsen will be keeping busy until his return to the course, playing goalie for the State High hockey team and working out in the gym over the winter.