Hess places at PA Jr. Championship
When Chad Hess teed it up to start the Pennsylvania Junior Golf Championship Tournament, he thought a top-20 finish in the 36-hole event seemed like a reasonable goal.
He finished 15th in the event last year, held annually at Hershey Country Club, but he felt this year's field of 133 players was a bit stronger. And he remembered a pair of mid-80s rounds he posted at Hershey back in May.
Despite a double-bogey on his first hole, Hess was in the top 15 after the first round of the state junior championship, which was held July 1-2. He shot four-over par 75 the first day.
His goals didn't change much heading into the final round. He was still thinking about holding onto his position more than he was thinking about moving up the leaderboard.
Hess, a rising senior at Parkland High School, eagled the first hole of his second round and shot three-under par over the first seven holes of his second round to catapult up the leader board.
"My dad was telling me not to look at [the leaderboard]," said Hess. "I had a caddie and he was telling me not to look at it, just to keep walking. At one point I was in second place."
Hess finished his second round at even par and finished the tournament at four-under par to tie for fourth place overall.
"I am playing some higher ranked tournaments this year," said Hess. "That was probably one of my best tournaments."
Over 36 holes Hess made one eagle, four birdies, 23 pars, six bogeys and two doubles. He excelled on the tees and greens.
"The fairways are tight," he said. "You have to hit great drives. And I was rolling putts in the hole."
Hess estimated that he normally averages a two putt (36 putts per round), but needed just 25 putts in his second round.
His placing at Hershey qualified him for the Williamson Cup, a team event in which teams of golfers compete against others from different PGA Sections around the northeastern part of the US.
Hess competes in local junior tournaments as well as International Junior Golf Tournaments. He finished seventh in a May Tournament at Architects Golf Course in Phillipsburg.
"That's my highest finish in an IJGT event," Hess said. "I played in the second-to-last group. I was in fifth place after the first day."
He placed first in a pair of tournaments at Bethlehem Municipal in June. The first was a Lehigh Valley Open qualifier, an 18-hole event in which Hess shot 72. The other was the Bethlehem Junior Match Play tournament in which he was the fourth seed after the opening stroke play portion then won three head-to-head matches to earn the title.
Hess' scores and finishes have been consistently getting better over the past few years. As a sophomore he qualified for his first District 11 Championship Tournament, finishing 11th and earning the alternate spot to the PIAA Eastern Regional.
Last year, as a junior, Hess placed third at districts after playing to a 74 average during the season.
"It's been improving," he said. "My scores have been dropping."
Hess said he "wouldn't be anywhere" without the help of his swing coach Paul Viola, the pro at Bethlehem Municipal Golf Course.
This year Hess is looking forward to his best high school season. He wants to get through districts and regionals and play in his first state tournament.
His busy golf schedule will take him right through the fall as he thinks about where to play college golf.
Some of his upcoming tournaments include the 54-hole Penn-Jersey Jr. Boys Championship July 9-10 at Green Pond; the 36-hole Sportsfest Tournament July 18-19 at Allentown Municipal; an American Junior Golf Association event July 22-25 at Stonewall Country Club in Elverson; the Lehigh Valley Open August 1-2 at Northampton Country Club; the Williamson Cup August 13-14 at Sleepy Hollow Golf Country Club in Scarborough; and the Lehigh Valley Tournament of Champions October 11-12 at Green Pond.
Last year Hess enjoyed being voted a team co-captain at Parkland. This year he looks forward not only to playing the best golf of his high school career, but also being the kind of senior leader that he's looked up to for his first three years.
"I'm hoping to get that role and to inspire people to play better," he said. "Golf is a lot of fun. If you can have a leadership position and impact other players, that's a bonus."
With all the successful tournament experience he's picked up this summer, Hess will have plenty to draw on when the high school season rolls around in mid-August.