Saline senior Will Heider waited a long, long time to golf in his first varsity competition.
And he made it count.
Heider shot a 39 Monday at Pineview, and was tied for second best among the Hornets’ starting six, as Saline defeated Ypsilanti and Lincoln in its SEC opener. (Click here for the gallery)
Coach Debbie Williams-Hoak was smiling ear-to-ear when Heider’s putt fell in the hole to end his round.
“Will Heider is what high school sports is all about,” Williams-Hoak said.
Heider was cut when he tried out for the golf team as a freshman. He became part of the golf program’s “futures team,” which was created for the golfers who didn’t make the team but wanted to improve their game. Williams-Hoak said Heider worked hard to make the junior varsity team as a sophomore. As a junior, he made the varsity reserve team, but didn't get the chance to start with varsity.
“He wasn’t quite ready to break into the top group on a really strong team,” said Williams-Hoak. “He came out again this year and he was the last person we kept with the team.”
Heider, however, still wasn’t in the starting six. That changed Saturday when Hoak-Williams held a skills competition, with the top three finishers earning the final three places in the starting six. Heider came in third and grabbed the final starting spot for Monday’s outing.
Heider was happy with the outcome after his final putt dropped Monday. He knew he’d come a long way.
“I started from the very bottom my freshman year and kept working and kept grinding it out. And I happened to win a skills contest Saturday and got the chance today,” Heider said. “I felt very good about the way I golfed today. I had a few shots I’d like to take back, but that’s golf.”
Heider acknowledged it was a special day.
“It was a great feeling to be out here with my teammates. They’re great golfers and I have a lot of respect for them and I’m glad I was able to join them,” he said.
When asked why he continued to strive to make varsity, Heider said there were two reasons.
“I love to golf. And I knew the benefits of golfing outweigh sitting at home on the couch,” he said.
Williams-Hoak said Heider’s game has improved in every area. The main issue, she said, was that Heider was very “hand-sy” from all the tennis he plays.
“That led to a lot of big hooks. We had to quiet those hands and work on his alignment,” she said.
And it paid off.
“As a coach, I couldn’t be happier. He’s been terribly disappointed that he’s not played more, but you never saw that in anything he did. He continued to work hard and his attitude has always been great,” Williams-Hoak said. “He never sulked or pouted. He just kept working. And then he got the opportunity to get into the lineup and he made the most of it.”
Heider, now, will focus on trying to maintain his starting role and helping Saline repeat as district champs. He wants to see Saline return to the state championship tournament.
“We have the talent to follow up on last year’s success. It’s going to be about working hard, getting hot and making the most of your opportunities,” Heider said.
If that’s what it takes, don’t bet against Heider and the Hornets.