Putting cures all.
“(It) means if you have a horrible, horrible ball-striking round but for some reason you have an insane(ly low) amount of putts, you could possibly come out with a low score,” says Hart High boys golfer Jess Scheller of a phrase his dad often uses.
“Putting is a big separator in the long haul.”
Scheller, recently the medalist at the Calabasas Invitational, knows all about how to succeed in the long haul. He’s had a golf career filled with peaks and valleys and has finally gained a sense of true confidence.
MORE: 2017 Foothill League boys golf preview
He was first encouraged to try golf at a young age by his father, who is a swing coach. But by the time he reached 5 years old, Scheller decided to give basketball a try.
At age 12 (and at 5 feet), he returned to golf.
“Playing basketball didn’t help me for golf because golf is a very selfish, aggressive sport,” Scheller says. “People think it’s really boring, but the mental aspect you have to have for it is completely different from what you think it is.
“It’s you and only you and it’s kill or be killed. People are looking to take something from you. So you have to look at them and say, ‘No, I’m taking this.’ That was something that I really struggled with because I wasn’t like that at all with basketball.”
Scheller has only improved since his return. Skill-wise, Hart golf coach Steve Lindberg has noticed a significant difference in the junior since he began his varsity career, but an even bigger difference on the mental side of the game.
“He’s really grown in his love for the game and his understanding of the game,” Lindberg says. “His mental toughness and his ability to play within himself and not get angry but just stay focused.”
It’s taken the junior quite some time to get his mind to this point. Learning how to become comfortable on any course and developing self-belief has been a career-long journey.
“It’s been a tough road. I would say confidence-wise, I’m not a very big confidence person,” Scheller says. “Until, like, recently because I’ve had some success in junior golf, but I would say that you just have to believe in yourself or else you’ll never have a chance.”
“There’s always someone who’s trying to do something different to beat you out.”
Last year, Scheller finished fourth individually in the Foothill League. He’s yet to make it through the first round of the CIF-Southern Section Individual tournament.
He calls himself a “late bloomer,” because of his golf hiatus, but doesn’t necessarily consider that title a disadvantage.
“I feel like there’s been more positive things to come out of me (starting) later because I think I proved a lot and I feel like I keep improving because I have no room to mess around at all,” said Scheller. “I have no space for error at all compared to people who have been playing in golf tournaments since before I even started getting serious with golf.”
The Calabasas tournament served as a launch pad for this season. He shot a 1-under 71 for the day’s top honor and competed against some of the area’s best from Westlake, Chaminade of West Hills and Calabasas.
“I think there was some relief that he knew that he finally had accomplished something and that he knew he was where he belonged,” Lindberg says. “He’s worked so hard to reach this level and he’s there.”
Although he’s gained confidence and a tournament honor, Scheller knows there is still plenty of work to do.
Winning league is a goal, along with making it to the third round of CIF-SS individuals.
He also has college aspirations, and a successful season could give him a serious boost in the running to get a scholarship at his top pick, Loyola Marymount. He’s also been looking at UC Riverside.
With a heavy workload, the golfer tries to stay realistic and in the moment.
“The thing is, what comes with success, especially in golf, you get a false sense that you’ve kind of got it, and you can’t do that,” Scheller says. “There’s always someone who’s trying to do something different to beat you out.”
But no matter what the competition, Scheller knows to keep going, putt by putt.