By Jackson Wendling, 2013 HP Scholastic Junior All-America Team Member
Note: HP Scholastic Junior All-America candidates were required to submit an essay no longer than 500 words on an original topic relating to golf. Wendling's essay was selected as the 2013 winner.
Yes. It was a great ride… But somebody had to do it! And I’m glad it was me. I’ve been around for a long time: since 2004 to be exact. This kid has carried me since he was six years old. We’ve been through many events and elements. During the early years, I carried only four clubs, few balls, and the latest indestructible tees. I evolved to support fourteen clubs, several Pro V1x’s, a range finder and the latest AJGA towel. A very special, red nametag was strategically placed on my side to identify my junior. I have traveled thousands of miles, watched countless balls being struck and, occasionally, I’ve been slammed to the ground after a three-putt. Over the years, I have faded a bit and lost a little spring in my stand, but I am proud to have been a part of this exciting journey.
My time off was spent on a hook in a cold, mid-western garage. The lights brightened nearly the same time every night for practice. I hung near the net to watch ball after ball being hit. Music jammed from Junior’s iPhone muffling the crack of each compressed shot. Occasionally, Dad would step out to check on Junior’s progress. The same words of encouragement were offered each evening, “Swings are made in the off-season and players are made on the course.” As the days lengthened and the temperatures warmed, every daylight hour after school was spent on the course preparing for the year’s first event. The 40-degree temps allowed us the freedom to navigate throughout the course with little interference.
Finally, the AJGA season opener arrived and the eagerness for the competition peaked. I was shoved in the travel bag and transported hundreds of miles. Upon arrival, I was placed near the practice green next to the sign that read, “Players and Coaches Only.” What about me? I stood and watched putt after putt. Later, at the range, I was strategically placed near a group of college coaches that watched every swing. Competitors were lined up striking shot-after-shot, seemingly synchronized like a refined dance team. I was clearly not the only bag to witness such dedication. At the first tee, my clubs are counted and surveyed. I am loaded with more weight: a sand bottle to “Care for the Course!” Later in the round, it began to pour! I was soaked to the stand by the end of the round. We rushed off to the hotel where my contents were placed beside the air conditioner, and I was left alone to dry.
The final days of the event were an intense battle. Junior’s solid play drew the attention of the college coaches. Years of hard work, dedication and commitment paid off, allowing me to retire. Junior secured first-place and a brand-new AJGA Champion’s Bag. Once again, I was placed on the hook in the garage left to reminisce over my life experiences. It was a great ride. A great ride, indeed!
To learn more about the 2013 HP Scholastic Junior All-America Team, click here.