With rise complete, Cats’ Pierce happy to help

Dave Weatherwax/The Herald
A steady uptick over his high school career has boosted Carson Pierce into the state finals, as the Jasper senior began the first leg of the two-day finals today as he competes individually. Pierce averaged around an 88 for 18 holes as a freshman, and this season he’s averaged in the mid-70s and fired a nine-hole school record of 31.

By MICHAEL HUGHES
mhughes@dcherald.com

Avery Hollinden thought he was alone waiting for his ride home. He called his dad, but for the moment, the freshman on the Jasper boys golf team bided his time by taking a few putts on the practice green at Sultan’s Run Golf Club.

Then, Carson Pierce walked up after wrapping up a few last things and asked if Hollinden had a way home. Then, Pierce took a seat.

“I didn’t really want him to sit there and wait by himself, so I sat down with him and talked with him until his dad got there,” Pierce said.

That was after Pierce’s senior night May 18 — a night when he fired a hole-in-one and blazed his way to a 31 over nine holes to set a school record.

“That’s who he is,” Carson’s father Glen said. “He’s willing to help anybody. The other night he called and said, ‘Hey Dad, I’m going to be a little late because I have to run a couple people home.’ That’s who he is and I’m very proud of him for that.”

At sectional, where Carson claimed medalist honors while leading the Wildcats to a 10th straight sectional crown, Hollinden’s father told Glen how much Carson sticking around meant to him. Jasper coach Steve Milligan said Carson is almost like an older brother to Hollinden and Landon Kissel, another freshman, but really he’s like that with each of his teammates.

“I kind of want to be that senior that all the kids have an opportunity to look up to,” Carson said. “I’ve never really wanted to be one of the mean seniors that always picks on kids and all that.”

That’s what sets Carson apart, Milligan said. Milligan’s in his 14th year of coaching the boys program at Jasper, and in that time, he said he’s had about eight to 10 players who compare.

Milligan said just by watching Carson interact with anyone on the team, it’s impossible to tell if he’s the top golfer or an average player.

“Sometimes, these guys that get good, they just shy away from everybody else, but he does not do that,” Milligan said. “He shows his leadership for all his teammates.”

When Carson was younger, he said it was those types of leaders who inspired him to do the same. Reid Lorey and Jacob Bartley were more than talented golfers — they were role models, Carson said. Even Josh Krempp, who’s only a year older, served as an example to follow on his way to a berth in last year’s state finals. Now, Carson is competing on the same stage today at Prarie View Golf Club in Carmel. He teed off this morning to start the two-day state finals after qualifying as the final individual in last Thursday’s regional.

While he was preparing for his last couple days as a high school golfer, Carson decided to look back at what he averaged in 18-hole tournaments as a freshman. The result was up around an 88, a far reach from his average this year, which he estimates at 74 or 75.

“He’s always been a kid that when he wants to do something he does it,” Glen said. “He puts a lot of effort into it. He’s a good student and ended up graduating with honors.”

From an early age, that drive started and ended with golf. For Carson’s Christmas present when he was 5, Glen bought the smallest set of golf clubs he could find. Glen always played with his friends, and Carson felt he was missing out. With his new clubs in tow, Carson tagged along.

“Like any 5-year-old he was good for a putt here and a putt there for four or five holes, and then he was ready to go home and do something different,” Glen said. “It was kind of neat how he stuck with it and started playing. Probably by the time he was 7 or 8 years old he was more than willing to go out and play nine holes at the country club.”

Gradually, Carson kept doing more and more. Soon, he started teeing up his ball at the spot Glen’s drive landed. Then, he moved back to the ladies tees. That continued until Carson reached high school for a couple reasons. The first was Glen wanted Carson to get used to competition. Secondly, if they both teed off at the same spot, Carson’s drives would have trouble reaching a spot where he would ever have to use his irons.

“Really, the ladies tees are just the forward tees and that’s how he should have played based on how far he was hitting the ball,” Glen said. “I really think that helped a lot on regards to being competitive and feeling like, ‘Hey, I can really be competitive and play and have fun.’”

It worked, because soon everything else fell away for Carson. He played soccer and baseball growing up, and when he was 12, he earned a spot on his Little League all-star team. Carson turned it down, since he was already scheduled to play in a couple Indiana Golf Association tournaments that conflicted with the extended all-star schedule.

These days, he typically plays around 20 hours a week, and competitiveness fuels his desire to constantly improve. His father and Milligan were talking in the leadup to the state tournament about how consistent Carson’s improvement has been throughout high school. Each year, he shaved strokes. After a small regression when the weather turned cold, he’d always end the next year better than the one before.

“I think that’s kind of fueled him,” Glen said. “I think that’s really motivated him knowing he could get better — that if he continued to work he could continue to get better.”

That fire has a caveat. Sometimes, Carson has a tendency to get a little too serious. It’s not something many others notice. All the way back to when he was 12, parents of players Carson was paired with have complimented Glen for his son’s levelheadedness, but Carson still feels it.

It was there during his freshman season, but like his physical golf game, he’s improved mentally.

So as he tries to keep his cool within himself after an errant shot, he’s also worked on staying relaxed around his teammates. Who knows? Carson Pierce might be providing a path to follow for the next Carson Pierce of Jasper’s program.

“There is a side of me that gets competitive and wants to blow people off, but in the long run I don’t think that’s the way you should handle things,” Carson said. “I think you should treat everyone with respect and hopefully they’ll be able to pass that on to the next person.”




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