Great golfers can dominate other golfers, but the game will never be fully tamed. Three Rivers senior Holly Hines has turned most matches this year into a contest for second place. But even after nine victories, it’s those rare moments when perhaps her mind wanders or her swing isn’t executed like the thousands of practices rips before that spur her to work even harder.
At this point, her biggest competition is herself. And like any perfectionist, she tends to fixate on what she could do better rather than the litany of things she’s already done right.
Take for instance last Thursday, when she was three over par through 13 holes at Coldwater Country Club and up by a substantial margin on the field. A four-putt triple-bogey on No. 18 wiped out her lead and Hines lost the event by a shot.
“That was so bad,” she said. “That definitely gives me a drive to kill it the rest of the season. That should not have happened. It gives me a drive to do better.”
She’s always had drive. From her preteen days playing events in the Kalamazoo Junior Golf Association, to summers spent facing more advanced players on the Adams Golf, Mid-American and Golfweek’s junior tours, to the endless hours of instruction from Wildcats coach Phil Webb and Performance Golf Academy’s Clark Peterson, Hines takes this sport as seriously as one can.
Holding every record at Three Rivers is a testament to that. With an 18-hole average of around 79 and a 9-hole mean of 39, Hines has claimed all seven Wolverine Conference Jamborees this fall. One more will be played before the league championship, but she has already secured her third straight all-conference finish.
“I think Holly has made the largest improvements in her recovery shots,” Webb said. “All golfers hit shots that are not ideal. Holly has improved tremendously in her ability to recover from her less than ideal shots. Numerous times this year, and perhaps several times a round, she may miss the fairway, miss the green, but still get up and down to save her par. She has really matured and learned to stay calm and stick to her game plan.”
Part of the plan was scrapped two years ago in favor of all new mechanics. Peterson rebuilt Hines’ swing — a painstaking process that eventually paid off.
“Everything was gone,” Hines said of her old swing. “It was so hard to get back into this whole new swing. We’ve been working really hard on it. It has helped me a ton. He is such a good teacher.”
“She has made some great strides in our time together,” Peterson said. “She’s certainly dedicated to the sport and it’s her life. She has a lot of room to grow as well. She’s only going to get better. She’s going to be a nice contributor to somebody’s [college] program.
Despite the putting breakdown last week at Coldwater — an anomaly this season — Hines has paired a pinpoint short game with the ability to crush it off the tee. Having played from the white tees throughout the majority of her summer tournament schedule over the years, teeing off from the red tees during the prep season turns a course of any length into a manageable one for the big hitter.
But scoring happens around the green.
“Along with her ability to recover, Holly has also improved her short game,” Webb added. “She spent a great deal of time on the practice greens this summer to improve her chipping, pitching and putting — and it shows. She is much more calm and collected than a year ago.”
Last October was her first experience at the Division 3 state finals after failing to advance out of regionals the previous season by two strokes. Hines shot herself out of contention with a 105 on the first day at Bedford Valley. Hines admits she let inclement weather get the best of her.
But like most Midwestern golfers, she has learned to accept and fight through whatever Mother Nature hurls her way late in the season. Many times Hines sought out the nastiest of conditions at her home course of Island Hills just to get used to wet grips and windy conditions.
Many local league players on one night in particular thought she was a little crazy.
“I was just sitting out there hitting golf balls in the rain,” said Hines, who still hopes to attract scholarship offers from more schools on top of the interest from Central Michigan, Western Michigan and Illinois State before making a decision soon. “Everyone is in [the clubhouse] and I’m out there practicing. I’ll have to do it sometime. When it gets really cold and windy, my dad and I will go out to the course and play through it because I know I’m going to have to get used to it.”
With just over three weeks until the state tournament, Hines is locked in on taking the Wolverine, regional and state titles to end her prep career.
“This year is goal first to be first,” she said. “I’m bringing everything I can bring.”