Bolling in position to claim 12th County Am

Herald File Photo
Derek Bolling is seeking his 12th Dubois County Amateur men’s golf tournament title Sunday as the 50th running of the County Am will wrap up at Sultan’s Run Golf Club in Jasper. Bolling currently has a one-stroke lead over Cam Weyer, and a three-stroke lead over his father, Brad, who currently sits in third place overall.


Golf has been a part of Derek Bolling’s life for as long as he can remember. As he grew up in Holland and Huntingburg, his earliest memories go back to accompanying his father, Brad, to his various golf outings, playing rounds with his friends when he found the time for it. Derek says his father’s influence was the single biggest element that got him interested in the game, going so far as to refer to him as his golfing role model, and credits Brad with teaching him everything he knows about the game.

“I got bit by the golf bug watching my dad play,” he said. “I always wanted to go watch and caddy for my dad. I’ve always just traveled with him and watched him play, I never really got any golf lessons. He’s been the only guy that has given me any golf advice.”

But Derek eventually picked up his own clubs and emerged from the shadow of his father. What started as summer days spent playing rounds on the links, turned into participation with golf teams through middle and high school. Derek started to really get his feel for the game in his early teens, and enjoyed the challenge of picking up a game that many have spent a lifetime trying to master. So much so that he kept on playing through his college years, where he got to share the course with future PGA pro Bubba Watson.

He’s experienced a lot of personal highs that come with multiple tournament victories throughout his youth, including winning his first Dubois County Amatuer tournament at the age of 16. Nowadays, Derek doesn’t have as much time to break out his golf bag, but he’ll have a chance to do so this Sunday — he leads the pack with a score of 138 heading into the final round of this year’s Dubois County Am. Derek has won the tournament 11 times before, with his last win coming in 2012. But for him, the feeling of winning hasn’t become dull or thought of as a foregone conclusion. He respects the competition the tournament brings out, and says that by the end of the final round, if you find yourself at the top of the leaderboard, you know you’ve earned it.

“If you ask any past champion, no matter what tournament it is, you still have to get the ball in the hole,” he said. “Nothing in golf is ever given to you. These fields that you’re playing in for the Dobios County Amatuer, we got some great golfers. They don’t just hand you the trophy you have to go out and get it.”

As for how Derek is feeling heading into Sunday, he admits that he’s only human and, as such, the nerves and jitters that come with anticipating the final round are present. But at the same time, his previous tournament experience has taught him that once he heads out on the course and starts playing, he’ll be able to tune out the “what ifs” and just focus on the actual events that are happening in front of him, which helps him calm down and focus.

“You’re nervous, but you’re more anxious to get out there,” he said. “I always felt the comfort once I got on the course and got the clubs in my hand. Throughout the week, you’re always guessing. But once you get out there and start playing, then it’s like ‘Well we’re here, now it’s happening.’”

So what is it that keeps him coming back to the course, even though the game can wreak havoc on his nerves as he goes through all the hypotheticals? Part of the appeal for Derek is finding himself in those moments where the game manages to throw another curve at him as he makes his way around a course, and in that moment, he realizes that despite his range of experience in golf, there is still that much more he can learn about the game.

“It’s not a game that you can own. It’s a game that you rent for a little while,” he said. “You can feel like you have an understanding of golf and you know what you’re doing. But it humbles you so fast. That’s the best thing about golf, it’s a good comparison to life.”

So with that in mind, Derek prepares himself to face the field and try to win a 12th title along with the bragging rights that come with it. But he also has his maturity and experience that keep everything in perspective in terms of where this competition falls in his life. Back when golf took up a bigger chunk of his time and effort, he might beat himself up a bit over a bad round or two. But now, Derek understands that life doesn’t end if he has a rough day on the course. And even if he doesn’t come away with the title, he still gets to go home to something that’s much more valuable to him.

“Before golf was the number one thing, if I went out and I played bad, I was disappointed,” he said. “But now if I play bad, I still come home and I’ve got my three kids. Golf is an awesome thing, but if things don’t work out, it’s not the end of the world. It’s easy for me to put it away after the round and be okay with the outcome.”

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