Cross, Sevier County display mental toughness

Sep. 26, 2013 @ 06:01 PM

 Several years ago, Martin Cross delivered an ultimatum to his son Spencer.

The young golfer needed to keep his emotions in check on the course or give up the sport.

“We weren’t going to let him play anymore if he couldn’t conduct himself in a respectful way,” Martin Cross said. “He knew he was dropping shots because of it. When he started keeping his composure he saw the difference between him and players that kind of lost it.”

Now, in his freshman year at Sevier County, the younger Cross has been one of the steadiest players in the county. Cross doesn’t let much bother him, and it’s shown. He’s captured the Sevier County title, the IMAC title and was runner-up at Monday’s District 2-AAA tournament, helping his team qualify for the region championships.

“I used to get angry a long time ago,” Spencer Cross said. “I realized you look like an idiot and you hit another bad shot and your score gets worse. I’ve just tried to contain myself a little bit better. Just know that if I get angry I won’t do anything, but if I don’t get mad I’ll make a decent score.”

Cross’ self-control was in full view Monday at The Country Club in Morristown. The freshman struggled early, shooting a 40 on the front nine. He promptly tried to forget about that half and shot 36 on the back nine, forcing a playoff for the district title.

Having a short memory like that on the golf course is important. Teammate Ben Huskey, who was a stroke back of Cross on Monday, had his own hiccup in a triple-bogey. The senior said he just tried to forget about that one hole and finish strong.

It’s that kind of mental toughness Sevier County coach Chad Owenby has tried to instill, not just in Cross and Huskey, but his whole team. Owenby was just as impressed by Dallas Bush, third on the team with an 89, who overcame a tough middle part of his round to finish with three pars and a bogey on Monday.

“My team, they’re all teenagers, but they have a little mental toughness,” Owenby said. “That’s what it takes to be successful in this sport.

“I wouldn’t say I teach it, but I talk about it a lot. As much as I talk about it for months, it leads up to (Monday). It’s for this one tournament that they have to be mentally tough to get through. It’s 18 holes and a lot of pressure.”

Cross may face the greatest test of that toughness next week after he missed a putt on the first playoff hole to win the district title. He lost on the second hole. Owenby wasn’t worried about how the freshman will respond in the region tournament.

“I guarantee you (Tuesday) the first thing he does is he probably hits a hundred of those putts from that distance,” Owenby said. “That’s just the kind of kid he is. He’s going to work and work and work. He gets better.”