Wilson set for title defense

Columbiana senior Jared Wilson, the defending Division III state champion, is making his fourth trip to the state golf tournament. (Morning Journal/Wayne Maris)

COLUMBIANA — Whether preparing to zero in on another flagstick or ace another exam, Columbiana senior golfer Jared Wilson is someone who puts a great deal of care and pride into his work.

“When I think about Jared, the first word that comes to mind is driven,” Columbiana golf coach Jeff Jackson said. “He’s very conscientious and works hard at whatever he does whether it’s on or off the golf course. His results reflect that.”

For the fourth straight season, Wilson is reaping the rewards of a year’s worth of effort by making a trip to Columbus for the Division III state tournament.

Wilson will be looking to defend his Division III state title from last season when he tees off at 10:40 a.m. Friday at The Ohio State University’s Scarlet Course.

He punched his ticket with a 71 in the district tournament last week at Tannenhauf Golf Club in Alliance.

“Since I started playing high school golf, I’ve always wanted to make it to state all four years,” Wilson said. “Each season, it doesn’t matter what you did the year before, you still have to work on getting better and play well every year at districts. To do that again this year is an accomplishment that I’m really proud of.”

Last season, Wilson shot matching rounds of 71 at NorthStar Golf Club to take the title by six strokes. Since he began this season, he’s been on a mission to back that up.

“That’s been the ultimate goal for me since the beginning of the season,” Wilson said. “It’s been what I’ve really working towards all year. There have been other smaller goals along the way, but getting back and winning another state title has been the ultimate one.”

For the first time in his high school career, Wilson will be the lone Clipper competing at state. After qualifying for the last three years in a row, the Clippers as a team came up short this season with an eighth-place district finish last week.

“It’s going to definitely feel different this time around,” Wilson said. “I still have some teammates coming down to watch, so that will be nice. It doesn’t really change my strategy at all. Whether it’s an individual or team tournament, I’ve always had the approach of just doing the best I can.”

The toughness of the golf course and the pressure of trying to win a state title isn’t likely to faze Wilson who once again spent the better part of his summer testing himself across the country in a number of different tournaments.

“I really had a tough summer schedule, we traveled a lot,” Wilson said. “I tried to play a lot of tough events just to try and prepare myself. Playing against the best competition is the best way to make yourself better. Doing that all summer really helped prepare myself for this season.”

Wilson’s results during his senior year reflect his preparation. He set the school scoring record and the course record at Valley Golf Club when he fired a 28 on Aug. 14. He was the medalist in all but two of Columbiana’s dual matches and averaged under 35 strokes for his nine-hole matches.

A strong game

Over the last couple of seasons, the 130-pound Wilson has added an additional 30 yards of length off the tee. He can now belt the driver 300 yards which serves as a nice compliment to his short-iron precision and a short game that he considers his biggest strength.

“Jared does a lot of strength training, stretching and also a lot of practice,” Jackson said. “Ultimately, he’s a student of the game and he’s worked very hard on perfecting his technique. He’s got a big arc on his backswing and that, combined with his strength, is why he’s so long.”

Beyond his natural gifts, golf seems tailor-made for Wilson’s calm, purposeful demeanor. While spending hours on the driving range or practice green may seem like drudgery to some, Wilson derives enjoyment from those quiet moments spent working on his game.

“One thing I definitely like about golf compared to other sports is the sense of accountability it provides. You can be as good as you want to make yourself,” Wilson said. “I love the fact that you don’t have to have a team to practice, you can just go out by yourself anytime and play or hit balls. I enjoy the practice not only because it’s enjoyable by itself, but also because I know it’s going to help me get better in the long run.”

Good marks

Wilson’s work ethic has carried over to the classroom where he carries a 4.2 grade-point average and scored 35 on his ACT. Next fall, he will be attending Wake Forest on a golf scholarship.

That ability to process information has also served Wilson well on the course.

“As evidenced by his work in the classroom and his test scores, Jared’s a real smart kid,” Jackson said. “His ability to think his way around the course, look at things from all angles and think ahead really helps set him apart. He’s not a player who hits a shot without thinking it through all the way.”

Wilson began the final week of his high school golf career Monday by diligently putting in his work on the driving range, as he has done countless other times. After all of the memories and accomplishments he has piled up over the last four years he remained committed to creating one more.

“I’ve always wanted to win a high school state championship even before I got to high school,” Wilson said. “To finally achieve that last year was just unbelievable. I can’t wait to try and do it again this weekend.”

State notes

• Wilson has played two previous tournaments at the Scarlet Course — a 7,455 yard par-71 layout — once at the state tournament two season ago when he tied for fifth, and again at a tournament this summer. He described it as a stern overall test that challenges every facet of a player’s game.

“It’s definitely more demanding off the tee than NorthStar was last year,” Wilson said. “There are a lot of fairway bunkers that you can get caught up in if you’re not hitting your driver well. The greens are also as tough as they come. There is a lot of slope, and they will be running pretty quick. It’s a fantastic all-around course and I’m excited for another chance to play it.”

• The only Division III state qualifier to better Wilson’s district score of 71 was Drew Salyers of Howard East Knox, who shot 69. Two other golfers turned in 71s, including Brookfield’s Conner Stevens, who was co-medalist with Wilson at Tannenhauf last week.

“The biggest thing I learned from last year was just to focus on my own game and not worry about what the other players are doing,” Wilson said. “Last year I wasn’t even in the same group with the other player I was tied with after the first day. I’m going to try and do whatever possible to stay in the zone. There’s going to be a lot of good players and I’ll have to be on top of my game for sure.”

“It’s always hard to compare scores, because everyone is playing different courses and different conditions,” Jackson said.

• Wilson said his favorite pro golfer is three-time major champion Jordan Spieth, who uses precision, putting and smart course management as his main weapons.

“I used to be a big Tiger fan but, with him laying low recently, Spieth’s kind of taken over,” Wilson said. “He’s not the flashiest guy and he doesn’t hit it further than everybody, but he knows how to win and I really like that.”