Cloudy
50°
Cloudy
Hi 51° | Lo 45°

Addicted to the Links

Hartford High Student Takes Lessons From the Game

  • Peter Harris, right, director of golf at Fore-U Golf Center in West Lebanon, watches and records Zach Temple at Fore-U on Thursday. Temple, a senior at Hartford High School, works at Fore-U and is doing an internship there. (Valley News - Jennifer Hauck)

    Peter Harris, right, director of golf at Fore-U Golf Center in West Lebanon, watches and records Zach Temple at Fore-U on Thursday. Temple, a senior at Hartford High School, works at Fore-U and is doing an internship there. (Valley News - Jennifer Hauck) Purchase photo reprints »

  • Peter Harris  talks with Zach Temple at the center on Thursday. Harris had recorded Temple at the range and they were reviewing his swing. (Valley News - Jennifer Hauck)  <br/>

    Peter Harris talks with Zach Temple at the center on Thursday. Harris had recorded Temple at the range and they were reviewing his swing. (Valley News - Jennifer Hauck)
    Purchase photo reprints »

  • Peter Harris, right, director of golf at Fore-U Golf Center in West Lebanon, watches and records Zach Temple at Fore-U on Thursday. Temple, a senior at Hartford High School, works at Fore-U and is doing an internship there. (Valley News - Jennifer Hauck)
  • Peter Harris  talks with Zach Temple at the center on Thursday. Harris had recorded Temple at the range and they were reviewing his swing. (Valley News - Jennifer Hauck)  <br/>

West Lebanon — There are golf professionals, and there are professional golfers. Zach Temple wants to be one. Peter Harris would be happy with either outcome.

That’s part of why Harris entertains Temple’s presence in his world every weekday. For 75 minutes every Monday through Friday morning, Temple — a Hartford High senior and the top player on the Hurricanes’ golf team — works an internship with Harris, the second-year director of golf at the Fore-U Golf Center.

Harris’ goal is to show Temple there are many more opportunities in golf than just being a touring pro. As an 18-year-old with a serious jones for the game, Temple buys some of what Harris is selling even as he admits he needs to do more.

“I thought it would be a great opportunity to show somebody who loves golf what the aspects of the golf industry are about,” Harris said this week while sitting in his Fore-U office with Temple. “As a golf professional, we’re administrators, we run an operation and there’s certainly an instruction side. Our profession is becoming specialized, so I’m focusing on the instructional side with Zach to give him an idea of what I do day to day.”

The opportunity came out of Temple’s summer job at the West Lebanon driving range and practice facility. Seeking a means of filling out a block of his spring schedule, Temple — with help from Hartford coach Roy Hathorn — worked an arrangement with Harris that will continue through the end of the school year.

The North Hartland resident arrives from Hartford High around 11 a.m. every school day, staying until 12:15 p.m. Much of what he does is intended to benefit his game, but it also emphasizes what’s out there from a golf-career standpoint, too.

“I thought it would be cool, since I needed to get a class in our block scheduling, to do something that I love,” Temple said. “I come here, work with Peter on my swing, do certain tests for club fitting and that type of stuff, look at my swing on camera and really analyze what’s going wrong, what’s going good.”

The internship marks the latest evolution in Temple’s head-over-heels relationship with golf.

He’d never so much as put a club in his hands when a friend “forced me to go” to Windsor’s John P. Larkin Country Club three years ago. Temple went reluctantly, lacked a full set of clubs and didn’t play all that well.

He was smitten. Of course.

“I ended up losing, like, 12 balls over nine holes,” he said. “I came home and told my mom I played awful, but I’ve never had that much fun in my life, and I just wanted to keep on going back. From that point on, I got the golf bug really, really bad. And I don’t see it going away anytime soon.”

Internship time is often spent training for competition. Harris will film Temple’s swing, show it to him on a computer and offer suggestions. He has the ability of doing three-dimensional reconstructions to show Temple how his body moves through impact, but the student hasn’t taken the teacher up on it yet.

“In my mind, Zach is trying to determine if he wants to be a golf professional or a professional golfer,” Harris said. “There’s a big difference right there. I’m trying to give him a blueprint of what the best players in the world are doing to get to where they are.”

Temple has advanced quickly in the game for such a relatively late start. He’s been Hartford’s No. 1 the past couple of springs, but he’s only scratched the surface of competition at the local and regional amateur levels.

To continue the progression, Temple admitted he has to change some of his habits. One in particular: Spend more time chipping and putting, less time trying to dent Route 12A with his driver.

“This year, after working with Peter on my swing, my ball-striking has improved 100 times better,” he said. “I rarely mis-hit a shot. My driver’s gotten much more consistent, as well as my chipping, but I don’t work as much on my putting as I should, and everybody knows that.

“My putting is my downfall. I always joke around with my coach, ‘Y’know, I could play on tour if I could only putt.’ ”

Harris also instructs Temple on other aspects of being a golf pro. As such, Temple now teaches at Fore-U junior clinics and has a much better grasp of how the stiffness of a golf shaft or loft of a club face can positively or negatively influence how he plays.

“It seemed like a natural to set (Harris) up as a mentor more than just a boss, but in terms of the things he does as a professional and what being a PGA professional is all about,” Hathorn said. “It’s not about being a good stick. There’s a lot more to it. It’s a perfect learning opportunity.”

Hathorn also handed the Hurricane captaincy to Temple, who’s run with the appointment. While he oversaw the purchase of shirts and hats for his teammates in Hartford’s red-and-blue school colors, Temple has outfitted himself in head-to-toe pink to honor his mother, Linda’s, two successful battles with breast cancer. He cherishes the support of his grandfather, Richard, who has taken an active interest in his grandson’s game.

Temple’s summer will include a return to the Vermont Amateur, a Vermont Open debut and qualifying attempts for the U.S. Amateur and U.S. Open, among other things. He’ll join the Castleton State College golf team in the fall; what happens beyond that will be determined by whether Temple chooses to be a golf pro or pro golfer.

“I have noticed that he does a nice job of finding the people who are doing what he likes to do and what he has dream of doing; he’s searching those people out,” Hathorn noted. “He could play comfortably with cohorts he beats badly, but he plays … with guys who play at a high level. He’s going to find them.

“They might knock him down a peg, but it’s a growth opportunity. You don’t always see that from a high school kid.”

Greg Fennell can be reached at gfennell@vnews.com or 603-727-3226.