This area has produced some incredible golfers throughout the years. Individual talents such as Vaughn Taylor and Charles Howell and John Engler, come to mind, not to mention the state championship teams at Lakeside High School, Richmond Academy and Augusta Prep.
So when a golfer begins his prep career by playing as the No. 3 man on the varsity squad and is his team's low man twice, well, that's nice but not exactly spectacular.
However, when the school has the golf tradition of Augusta Prep and that player is still in eighth grade, the story becomes quite noteworthy. That is exactly what 14-year-old Blake Hadden did this spring.
Blake, of North Augusta, was asked before the season by Prep golf coach Jeff Knox what he thought about playing with the varsity. Blake was a little hesitant, but could not pass up the chance to play for Knox, who recently won the Georgia State Mid-Amateur Championship.
Blake also knew that he would be playing with Knox's son Lee, who has signed to play next season at Alabama.
Was he nervous when he played in his first match for the Cavaliers?
"Well, I guess I was a little nervous, but once I hit a few shots I calmed down," Blake said.
It was his play at Prep that brought him to the attention of many local golf fans, but Blake's name was the talk of the golf world two summers ago. While playing in the Future Masters, one of the premier junior events in the country held each year in Dothan, Ala., Blake pulled off something that truly defied logic. He made not one, but two holes-in-one in the same event. First, he aced the 140-yard 11th hole in the opening round. Then, in round three, he scored his unbelievable second ace on the 83-yard fifth hole.
"I did not know what to think. I really did not know it was that big a deal," Blake said.
However, the entire family quickly learned it was in fact "a big deal" when they began getting calls from throughout the country. Everyone wanted to talk to the 12-year-old with the two aces.
The attention he received only made Blake want to work harder. He wanted to improve, and that he did. His diligence in practice has made him one of the top-ranked players in South Carolina (currently 10th in the class of 2012).
Blake has been on a tear of late. After recording nine top 10s and five top 5s in his 11 junior events in 2007, Blake has picked up a pair of recent victories. He won events at the university course in Athens, Ga., and the Hampton Club Junior Classic. He also had a second at the Daniel Island Classic.
This is on top of being named All-Region this season at Augusta Prep and helping the team win the Region 4-AAA Title. As a matter of fact, it was a clean sweep for the Cavaliers when the All-Region team was announced. (The team finished third in the state tournament.)
Blake began playing the game with his dad, Joey, when he was 6 and started to take the game more seriously when he was 11.
While there is no doubt his dad is one of his biggest fans, his mom, Emily, is much more than just transportation to his events. The two are the supportive parents it takes to raise a successful young person.
After speaking with Blake, you can tell he has been raised the right way. Each response to questions was followed by "yes, sir," and every answer was given with thought and modesty -- two qualities that are rare in most 14-year-olds. He reminded me of Charles Howell, who was polite, loved the game and seemed mature beyond his years.
Who knows if Blake's game will reach the level of Howell's someday? Blake still has to battle a terrific group of talented players right here in his own back yard -- great young players such as William and Grayson Sigg, Jack and David Gibbs, Davis Parker, and Evan Usry will push Blake to excel. However, this youngster does not need anyone to push him. Keep your eye on this 14-year-old; his future looks pretty bright.
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