May 16, 2017 10:19:50 AM
Jake Crosson needed a second opinion.
Coming off a bogey, Crosson knew he couldn't afford another if he wanted to have a chance to win the Mississippi High School Activities Region 1, District 2 tournament at the Ole Miss Golf Club in Oxford. That's why the New Hope High School junior called coach Albert McBrayer out to the fairway to ask for some advice. Crosson faced a dog leg to the right of No. 14 and a water hazard in front of the hole. He knew he probably could reach the hole with a more aggressive shot, but he had been strong on his wedges all day, so he wanted to ask McBrayer what he thought he should do.
McBrayer echoed those thoughts and encouraged Crosson to lay up to the hole to give him an easier go for birdie.
Crosson took that advice and used a wedge on his third shot to put himself six to seven feet from the hole, which gave him a chance for the birdie. That play ultimately helped him tie Oxford High's C.J. Easley for medalist honors with a 69. That score also turned out to be his low round for the season.
"I probably would have went for it ," Crosson said when asked how he would have attacked the hole last year. "My game has progressed so much the past two years I knew I could capitalize on laying up for it rather than risking it and ruining the whole rest of the round. Laying up was the mature thing to do."
Maturity has been the cornerstone of Crosson's junior season. Last Monday and Tuesday, Crosson capped his junior season by shooting rounds of 72 and 70 to win the MHSAA Class 5A State title at the Country Club of Canton. New Hope carded a 664 to finish third behind Oxford and Germantown.
For his accomplishment, Crosson is The Dispatch's Prep Player of the Week.
On Monday, Crosson followed up that victory by shooting a 1-under-par 71 and tied for fifth at the 2017 State Amateur qualifier at Big Oaks Golf Club in Saltillo. The finish secured him a spot in the State Amateur Championship on June 1-4 at Canebrake Country Club in Hattiesburg. It will be Crosson's first appearance in the State Amateur Championship.
Oak Hill Academy standout Hunter Atkins shot 5-under-par 67 to finish first in the qualifier.
Crosson said it has taken him time to understand you can't win a tournament on one hole but you can lose it on one, so he has learned how to play smarter and to pick his spots on the golf course. He said his new mind-set isn't a matter of playing safer or more aggressive but avoiding tougher situations that can limit his chances to shoot a lower score.
"Compared to other years it is definitely something I have improved on and realized that it can slip away from me with one bad shot," Crosson said. "This year I have learned to stay focused and not let bad shots get to my head."
New Hope High golf coach Albert McBrayer, who is in his first year working with Crosson, said he realized Crosson had potential the first day he saw him. He said he has watched Crosson develop the maturity to finish rounds to win tournaments. As a result, Crosson won eight of 12 tournaments this season.
"That kind of maturity comes from growing up as a young man and acquiring maturity in the game of golf," McBrayer said. "Last week at State he played very smart. He took his chances when there were there and when he could afford to take them. The maturity he gained the last couple of years, especially this year, has helped him to play a little bit smarter and to realize he doesn't have to go for the gusto on every shot."
Crosson said he was "surprised" he shot as well as he did at the Class 5A State meet because it was a "tricky" course and he had only one day of practice on it. He said he had six birdies and four bogeys in the two rounds to help him win his first state title.
After qualifying for the State Amateur Championship, Crosson said he will have to be even more focused when he competes against some of the state's best players for four days. But he feels this season has prepared him for that challenge.
"I wanted to go into this season working on those things from the previous summer and to continue to learn and improve on those things," Crosson said. "It definitely has helped me win golf tournaments. In previous years. I wouldn't have won 8 of 12 tournaments with the mentality and game I used to have."
Follow Dispatch sports editor Adam Minichino on Twitter @ctsportseditor
Adam Minichino is the Sports Editor for The Commercial Dispatch.
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