SPRING VALLEY -- Tyler Leach won the 2016 WIAA Division 3 individual state golf championship when he shot two strokes over par in the 36-hole tournament.
This year, the goal for the Spring Valley junior is to finish every round at or below par. Regardless of rain, sleet, bad day at school, or tough course: par.
So far, Leach has done just that and he did it again May 23, when he carded a 72 in the 18-hole WIAA Division 3 Spring Valley regional golf meet at Spring Valley Golf Course. Leach carded an 18-hole 69 at the WIAA Division 3 Cadott sectional golf meet Wednesday, May 31, at Whispering Pines Golf Course.
He had the lowest score of any golfer in any of the four sectionals in the state. That wasn’t enough, though, to get his team back to University Ridge in Madison for the team state meet for the third year in a row. Spring Valley shot a 357 to take fourth place. Eleva-Strum shot a 325 to take first place.
One of the major aspects of Leach’s game that he has improved this year to get his scores down is his chipping.
“Until this year, I didn’t consider myself the best chipper,” Leach said. “Now, I’m confident in my chipping ability because I’ve worked on it so much. So, if I miss a green, I just get up and down and make the putt for par. It all comes back to confidence.”
Leach leads the team with the low score each round, but he also leads the team in work ethic.
“Work ethic is his number one (asset),” Boisen said. “It’s hard to think of a night where we aren’t out there grinding.”
“He really pushes me,” sophomore Josh Hannack said. “There have been days where I’ve had a bad day and I want to go home after practice and he pushed me to stay and work on putts and my chipping until dark.”
Hannack shot his season-low 42 at the DSC mini-meet and felt like he had all aspects of his game working. He told Leach he wasn’t sure what he could work on the next day in practice.
Leach didn’t take long to find something for Hannack to work on.
“He said, ‘Where did you struggle to get up and down from?’” Hannack said. “I pointed out a spot to him and he had me chipping from there and trying to make the putt.”
There’s always something to work on, in Leach’s opinion.
“He’s like having another coach at the course,” head coach Matt Ducklow said. “He’s such a student of the game that he can look at teammates swings and putting and help them make adjustments to improve.”
“The way I see it, if you’re not getting better, you’re getting worse,” Leach said. “I always try to get out and work on something if I can.”
The attention to detail came from a fear as a young golfer that the course was too vast for him to be on by himself. So, he spent time chipping and putting on the practice greens.
“I saw the big course and ... I didn’t think I should be out there,” Leach said. “So, I would just spend time putting for like three hours at a time. That’s probably what made me a good putter today.”
And something Leach is always working on is his mental game.
“During my round, if I have a bad shot, I’ll see Leach and he’ll give me a thumbs up,” Hannack said. “He’s always having a good time and that puts me in a good mood (in the middle of my rounds).”
“He does a great job of not dwelling on his bad shots,” said Boisen, who also pointed out that a bad shot for Leach is much different than a bad shot for his teammates. “He always takes it one shot at a time. A lot of people forget how important that is in this game.”
The mental approach helps Leach, who has set a goal to be at or below par on every round he shoots this season.
So far, he’s done that.
Leach had a close call in a DSC regular season mini-meet at Spring Valley Golf Course. He shot a triple bogey on the third hole of the round, but when Boisen heard that Leach was a two shots above par he had no doubt that he would recover.
“It was impressive because shooting a 3-over on a hole is tough to come back from,” Boisen said, “but his work ethic and mental part of the game are so strong. So it wasn’t that surprising.”