By Clay Horning
The Norman Transcript
EDMOND — Not until Wednesday of last week had I even heard of Tess Hartog. Not until last Thursday morning’s Transcript had I ever put her name in a story. And still, she’s my new favorite golfer.
Part of it is always looking forward to the next terrific high school golfer in this town.
Gender may be a part of it, too, because I’m pretty sure I can count all the really good young women golfers to come through this town the last 15 years on one finger and that was Kaitlin Higginbotham, who began at CCS before heading to Norman North before heading to Redlands Community College on the way to Coastal Carolina where she finished up last year as a two-time All-Big South performer.
But Hartog shot 71 at last week’s regional tournament at Westwood Park, knocking three strokes off the previous best round of her life, and she’s only a sophomore and won’t be 16 until the summer and just seemed to have everything going her way as she teed off Wednesday morning at the Class 6A state tournament at River Oaks Golf Club.
Of course, the game kicked her in the gut. That’s what the game does.
Hartog began with eight straight bogeys on the way to an 86. Her scorecard was all pars and bogeys until the 16th, when a club fell out of hand and struck the ball. That led to a double-bogey 6 before she regained her composure and closed with two pars.
Hartog turned her scorecard in and was asked if she’d answer a few questions. She said she would and then, like the weight of her round hit her all at once, had to exit to get herself together before returning to be grilled.
“I just hit bad shots. I don’t know what the actual problem was. I just couldn’t hit greens,” she said. “My drives were good but it was always the second shots, and I couldn’t make putts.”
Hartog missed a pair of two-foot par putts, she said. And still, listening to her describe it all, it was easy to understand how easily the round could have been in the 70s.
She was constantly putting for par and missing. She was hardly out of play. For better or worse, she left plenty of strokes out on the course.
But the biggest reason she’s my new favorite golfer is that she cares. She cares enough to not immediately be ready to answer the questions and she cares enough to take not living up to her own expectations personally.
She’d played the best round of her life only seven days ago and she expected to play that way again.
What’s not to like?
“I know I can play. I know there’s something there,” Hartog said, “and when it starts to go bad I just get so upset because I expect to shoot good rounds and hit good shots.”
A young woman after any golfer’s heart.
The truth is Hartog wasn’t so bad.
Among the individual qualifiers, only Bishop Kelley’s Megan Ramos (84) and Moore’s Taylor Greteman (85), who also shot 71 at Westwood last week, are in front of her. And of the entire field of 75, only 13 broke 80 and eight of those were from two schools, Union and Broken Arrow. Hartog shot 86 with a penalty stroke and two missed two-footers.
Yes, they all count.
Yes, maybe I’m discounting some of her problems Wednesday because we’re talking about my new favorite golfer. But she’s so young in the game and here she is, believing and expecting more.
The game will beat you up again and again, but Hartog’s attitude is bound to lead to better things, maybe as soon as today.
“It could switch like that,” she said. “I could shoot 71 tomorrow.”
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