Before we swing back to the start, let’s head to the 2018 tee for Colin Flanders and the Pioneer boys’ golf team. The Pioneers have followed up their big season a year ago with a 9-1 record this season with a strong and young lineup.
One of those strong and young players is Flanders, the talented sophomore who has finished first this year in three matches and one invitational (Tecumseh). His lowest score this year – so far – is a 77 for 18 holes and 35 for nine holes (at Inverness Golf Club).
So things are going quite well for both Flanders and the Pioneers, who last year qualified for the state finals for the first time since 2009 and placed eighth overall at the D-1 State Tournament.
The Pioneers shot a 648 at states last year. Xavier Lee led the way with a 160 while Flanders and Ed Shen both fired a 162. Kailas Whitelocke shot a 164.
“Our team is young, and last year our top three players were freshman,” said Flanders. “We worked hard to improve the program at Pioneer.”
Flanders was on the 2017 All SEC Red Conference Team, the All-SEC Tournament Team and the All-Regional Team.
“I am most proud of the fact that our team qualified for the State Tournament for the first time in eight years, and placed eighth at the tournament,” said Flanders, who wants to build on that success both individually and as a team. “I would like to improve on my consistency and to be more comfortable if my score is low at the beginning of a match and keep my focus on the hole I’m playing. As a team, I want to qualify for the State Tournament again and place higher than we did last year.”
Flanders first teed up his interest in golf in the fifth grade and didn’t start playing competitively until the seventh grade.
“My grandparents belonged to the Lomas Sante Fe Country Club in Del Mar, Calif.,” he said. My grandpa took me to play nine holes when I was in fifth grade and I loved it. Eventually, we were playing on a daily basis. My grandpa is responsible for getting me interested in the sport and I appreciate that every time I’m practicing or on the course.”
Flanders says he finds golf a “relaxing” distraction.
“I love golf because I tend to worry about school and life in general and I find that when I am on the golf course I forget about those things and I am able to relax,” he said. “I also am a competitive person and I enjoy the fact that golf challenges me in a new way every time I play.”
Flanders took his game to the next level a few years ago when he started taking lessons with PGA Teaching Pro Jim Yuhas at Kendall Academy of Golf in Ann Arbor.
“Jim has taught me so much about the sport,” he says. “Of course he has helped me so much technically, but most importantly he has helped me with my mental game. He has encouraged me to finish strong no matter how I am playing at the beginning of the match and to try to set aside disappointments and frustrations and stay in the present moment.”
Flanders says Yuhas and the instructors at Kendall have helped him “tremendously” with all facets of the game.
“Kendall shaped my whole golf game,” he says. “I wasn’t even close to being a serious golfer before Kendall and Jim, but working with Jim made me the golfer that I am now. Golf is the kind of sport where progress is not always linear and is definitely life long, and I look forward to working with Jim and Kendall in the years to come.”
Flanders, who plays in outside tournaments in the summer and last year qualified for the Coca Cola Championship at Boyne, has a good mental mindset and is able to keep his emotions in check on the course. It’s one of his strengths he leans on when the pressure mounts and competition heats up.
“Earlier in the season, my golf coach at Pioneer Dane Dresch told me that a fellow coach who watched me play at the stated tournament couldn’t tell by my actions whether I was having a good day or bad,” he said. “I need to work on staying strong throughout the whole round and I would like to improve my iron game in order to hit more greens, which will allow for more birdies.”
Right now Flanders is focused on the next shot, the next hole and the next round – in that order. He says he is keeping an open mind with regards to his long-term options with golf.
“I would love to play in college but my education is extremely important to me, and I know that it is tough to incorporate both at a school that you really want to attend,” he said. “I plan to keep working on my consistency and improving and see where I am in terms of my skill when it comes time to decide what to do at the collegiate level.”