Seger set for ultimate swings

Rachel Mummey/The Herald
Jasper’s Will Seger received a pat on the back from coach Steve Milligan after his round in Thursday’s regional at Henryville. Teammates and coaches credit Seger’s work ethic and attitude for spilling to the rest of the Wildcat team, which has qualified for the state finals for a fourth straight year. Today, the Wildcats play their first 18 holes in the state finals at The Legends Golf Club in Franklin, with the final round set for Wednesday. Southridge’s Tyler Gray will also compete individually.

By JOE JASINSKI
Herald Sports Writer

Having played in more than 100 golf tournaments in his life, stretching from California to Massachusetts to Florida to Texas and everywhere in between, Will Seger understands that the numbers on a scorecard can be just as far-ranging as his travels.

Truth is, it’s that unpredictability — playing totally new shots on new courses every single day — that the Jasper senior finds so enlivening about the sport he’s consumed and that’s consumed him for the better part of a decade.

So when Seger muddled his way to a 93 during the third round of an American Junior Golf Association tournament to finish 76th in a stacked 78-golfer field last year outside of Houston, the inevitable emotions sank in, followed by a resolve Seger has made his hallmark.

“With anything, there’s a point where you just want to give up. It seems like the sky’s falling and you’re done,” Seger said. “Sometimes it’s like nothing can possibly help you right now. Sometimes you just want to quit, sometimes you just want to break every club in your bag and just stop playing.

“It’s just one of those things where a part of me says it’s awful. And then another part of you just thinks, ”˜Let’s get better.’ That’s the part that drives me each day.”

Wildcat coach Steve Milligan calls Seger the hardest worker he’s coached in his nine seasons at Jasper. Dru Hein, the team’s only other senior, lauds his classmate’s “God-given gift” to lead and motivate.

Seger has been instrumental in the Wildcats’ stretch of four consecutive state finals, a feat the boys golf team had accomplished only once before. This year’s state finals, a two-day event that begins today at The Legends Golf Club in Franklin, marks the coda. The final verse in Seger’s consummate high school career.

Thinking of the finals in finite terms — a mere 36 holes — is a bit befuddling given the innumerable swings that have led Seger to this point.

As a child, he’d whack golf balls at the Jasper Country Club practice range with his father, Scott, who’d “take me out there, kind of baby-sit me, put a club in my hand and let me mess around,” Will recalled.

As he grew up, the swings kept coming. Milligan remembers driving by the course and constantly catching glimpses of the young golfer.

“He was always out there chipping and putting and hitting 150-yard shots in. The shots that you had to work on,” Milligan said. “And that’s what made him what he is right now.”

Hein recalls being dropped off at Sultan’s Run by his dad during summers on his way to work. He’d meet Seger there and the two would grind out 10-hour days.

“We kind of lived at the golf course together,” Hein joked.

Ever since, the hours devoted to the game haven’t subsided. And the effect on the Wildcat program is noticeable.

After Day One of last year’s state finals, as every other team left the course, the Jasper boys stayed at the putting green until Milligan insisted they leave to go eat dinner. After Wednesday’s practice round before regional, Seger led a group back to the range to hit balls for another hour or so.

“That’s what makes Jasper golf what it is right now,” Milligan said. “This team, in the last four years, has (been) made better because of Will Seger. Because practice is not over when I say practice is over, because Will makes these kids practice more. He just makes these kids work more.”

Pebble Beach, Gold Mountain Golf Club outside Seattle, The Golf Club of New England in New Hampshire, North Carolina, South Carolina, each Midwest state a few times over. For the past five years or so, the golf life is a 12-month grind for Seger, who plays in more than a half-dozen tournaments each summer after the high school season concludes.

The ceaseless labor on the links can become monotonous, but Seger tries to stay cognizant of a simple, indelible truth he has committed to memory.

“Everything you put into it is going to matter,” he said.

“That’s exactly what it is with any sport or with anything in life. Whatever mental state you go into it with, whether you’re going to put anything or everything into it, that’s how much you’re going to get out of it. And whenever you’re putting 365 days a year into a sport, it shows where you’re going to be.”

No doubt, it has shown for Seger — medalist honors at the sectional and regional in 2012 and the sectional this year, an 18-hole average of 731⁄2 strokes in five rounds at Franklin, including a 10th- and 11th-place finish at the state finals in 2011 and 2012, respectively, to go along with four sectional team crowns. His complete body of work, in high school and in AJGA competition, has earned him the opportunity to play at the next level.

He approached Milligan at a Jasper basketball game in December and asked if the coach had a minute to talk after things wrapped up.

“So I walked over to him after and he said, ”˜I just wanted to tell you that I committed to Indiana University,’” Milligan recalled. “And I had (to take some time) by myself and I have to be honest, I had tears, because I was so proud of that boy. I’m just so proud to have been able to coach that boy for four years.”

For Seger, the high school season provides release. A hiatus from the oftentimes cutthroat nature and isolation of the summer tours. With a team, it’s fun.

There was the overnight stay in Bedford freshman year. As rain pummeled down the night before the match, which everyone expected to be canceled, Seger, Hein and teammate Ian Weyer played Pokemon Stadium and Mario Kart on Nintendo 64 until 3 in the morning.

“We got hard-core,” Hein said. “It was serious competition.”

Hein also recalls his first varsity match freshman year at Shadowood Golf Course in Seymour. The nerves were overwhelming.

“Will looked over at me and I was white as a ghost. I was shaking,” Hein remembered. “And he was like, ”˜Dru, what’s going on, man?’ I said, ”˜Will, I can’t do this.’

“I was so nervous I don’t think I could have picked up a golf club. He stepped in, he put his arm around me and said, ”˜You’ve been playing golf for long enough now. I know how good you are. It’s just golf. Just have fun.’”

That uncanny calm, that knack to show the way. It’s the quality Seger’s fellow senior recalls first and foremost.

“He’s one of the best leaders I’ve ever been able to be around. He can make someone else motivated whenever they just want to crawl down and fall flat on their face,” Hein said.

“As much as I’ve been through situations where I’ve been down, no one has helped me up as much as he has. … It’s just a God-given gift that he has. He makes other people around him better just by his attitude.”

Now to state, where the Wildcats finished just four strokes behind champion Evansville Harrison last June. After three years during which the mindset focused continuously on the next shot, Seger now eyes his final approach.

On the bus ride back from regional on Thursday, he reflected on the path.

“I just kind of sat there and thought about the last four years. With everything that went on at regional, and this is the fourth year we’ve made it to state,” Seger said. “The past three years, it’s been like, ”˜We’ve got to do this again, we’ve got to do this again.’ Focusing on getting better and the next day and the next round. (Thursday), I just kind of sat back and was like, ”˜This is awesome. This is really amazing.’”

Contact Joe Jasinski at jjasinski@dcherald.com.




More on DuboisCountyHerald.com