EASTHAM — Before this fall’s high school golf season started, Nauset freshman Jack Martin had never heard of the New England Championship. On Monday, the 14-year-old was the only member of the Nauset golf team to compete in the tournament at Mohegan Sun in Connecticut. Safe to say, he knows all about it now.
When Martin was six years old, his grandmother signed him up for a First Tee youth golf program at the Bayberry Hills Golf Course in his hometown of Yarmouth. He hasn’t put down the clubs since.
His dad bought him his first set the next year, and Martin started playing competitively in the fifth or sixth grade, he says.
Martin joined the Nauset golf team this year — a team that went 14-4 through the regular season and finished second in the Division 2 South Sectionals. Nauset earned a spot in the state finals, where the team finished 11th.
Most teams at this level rely on upperclassmen for leadership. Their strength and experience is needed. But Martin helped pace the boys golf team all season long.
Going into it, “I didn’t really know much about high school golf,” Martin says. “I didn’t really know anyone.” He did know one thing, though: “I wanted to help the team.”
Martin played more often during the 2020 pandemic year than he had before. And as he did, he says, his confidence grew. It didn’t hurt that he was practicing five days a week.
Martin and senior Cooper Guiliano were the clear leaders of the team this year. Martin shot just four over par at the state finals to finish in the middle of the pack, but tied for first at the sectional tournament, where he shot just one over par.
“One over is my best round,” he says. “I was really happy with how my teammates played. A couple guys stepped it up. I had a really good confidence boost there, and I think I hit three bad shots on the day.”
There are days like that in this fickle sport. And days that are not.
“You’re playing against yourself — you have to beat out your mind or beat out the course,” Martin says. He explains that he envisions each shot before hitting the ball. He decides, he says, whether he wants to play a draw, or cut, or set a target in the fairway. “You have to take it one shot at a time and don’t have a score in your head before the round,” he says. “See where your swing takes you.”
The sport also requires finesse, a smooth swing, and, on long holes, the strength to smack the ball as far as one can.
Martin is competing with other high schoolers who are 15, 16, 17, or sometimes 18 years old. At this age, there can be a significant gap in size between a 14-year-old and a 17- or 18-year-old. But Martin has shown he can swing with the best of them.
And he is strategic. “Off the tee, I’m pretty strong at keeping it in play,” he says. “I’ve been really confident around my short game. I practice that a lot.”
Martin finished tied for 25th at the New England Championship this week. It wasn’t the best result, but he has every intention of returning.
“I’ve set some pretty high expectations for myself,” he says.
What he enjoys about golf is the very thing that some would-be players can’t stand. “I like that some days everything can be working and the next day it all crumbles,” Martin says. “It’s a sport you always have to work at. It will never be easy on you.”