feature article as appeared in the July 30 edition of the LaRue County Herald News
photo credit Cameron Lasley
SENIOR CHANDLER MCLAUGHLIN – BOYS GOLF
A famous golfer named Ben Hogan once said “the most important shot in golf is the next one.” For senior Hawks golfer Chandler McLaughlin has been challenging himself each and every shot over the last four years as a varsity player.
McLaughlin brings the most experience to a talented team that will challenge once again for the 5th Region Championship at the end of September. He started playing golf when he was in sixth grade. McLaughlin says, “When I was younger my dad had some golf clubs and I used to play with him, and then the first day of sixth grade I saw a kid with a golf polo. I asked him about the team and then I went out and got some clubs, I’ve been playing it ever since.”
McLaughlin has been on the varsity squad since his eighth-grade year, and has had a varied amount of success along the way. A fifth place showing his freshman season followed up with a forth place his sophomore season.
Head Coach Justin Craft recalls his junior season as expectations were high for McLaughlin. “His performance in last year’s region tournament sticks out in my mind when I think about his maturation. He absolutely butchers his sixth hole on the day. There’s no other way to put it, and he’ll tell you the same thing. However, when he stepped off that green that day, I put my arm around him and told him he has the opportunity to remember that day as “the time he gutted out the clinching round that got his team to a state tournament.”
Craft continues, “A lot of athletes would have crumbled after the adversity, but he fought awful conditions to play one-over par the rest of the way. We end up clinching that second spot out of our region to go back to state for the third year in a row, and we don’t do that without him showing enough maturity to grind the rest of the way that day.”
Craft is optimistic that McLaughlin will have a solid season. “Chandler has as much ball-striking talent as anyone I’ve coached and he’s also the longest hitting player I’ve coached. When he is sharp, he’s among the region’s best, and he has the ability to hang around that same category even when he isn’t at his best. He’s a grinder and accepts that label proudly.”
McLaughlin has worked hard on improving his game. “This summer I really focused on the weak part of my game in the past which had been scoring and I feel like I have got a lot better at scoring throughout the summer which will help lower my scores come tournament time. I have really high expectations for myself this year since it’s my last year of high school golf. I want to have a scoring average in the mid 70’s this year along with couple top five finishes at tournaments we are playing in this year.”
McLaughlin is expected to compete for an individual region championship as well as helping in winning a team championship. LaRue and Meade are the teams to beat in the region, but Craft expects McLaughlin to be in the mix as one of the top individuals. “Lockwood from Central Hardin is the prohibitive favorite to finish as medalist for a third year in a row but there’s no doubt in my mind that Chandler has the game to compete with him and finish his career with an individual region title. I think a performance like that might surprise some coaches in the area but it definitely wouldn’t surprise me. I know he’s looking to improve on his T-11 finish in last year’s tournament. He snuck in under the radar as a freshman with a top-10 finish at region, and finished T-4 as a sophomore. He’s been on a team that has won a region title in 2017 and I’m sure he’d like to add an individual title to the resume as well.”
Craft has already seen improvement in McLaughlin’s game as practice has been underway for the last two weeks. “I’ve seen a ton of growth so far in the first item as we’ve practiced this summer. You can tell how Chandler is going to perform on any given day by looking at three things: Is he keeping the ball in play? Is he hitting greens in regulation? And is he making the majority of his putts from 10 feet and in? Those three things define his round. So, as an observer, I’m looking for how he handles the other two items. Sometimes with the speed he generates with his swing, he tends to get a little loose on his approach shots. Can he find a way to be more consistent in giving himself birdie looks throughout the round? And, can he find a way to make more putts? He’s already putting more confidently this year, so I expect to see more growth here.”