Arneson's mental mastery: Lynden sophomore becomes one of the top golfers in the NWC

THE BELLINGHAM HERALDMay 10, 2014 

Ezra Arneson

ANDY BRONSON — The Bellingham Herald

The days blend together for Lynden's Ezra Arneson.

It's not to say the sophomore's life is a continuous meshing of hours that all somehow feel the same, but more that he follows a routine that keeps him incredibly close to the game of golf.

It's a routine that he rarely departs from, and one that begins each morning when he wakes.

"I wake up and turn on the TV to the Golf Channel. Go to school, get out of school. Go on the golf course, then do my homework, and then watch highlights of golf," he said in a phone interview.

Putting it plainly, he added: "My life completely revolves around golf."

His scores are a reflection of such a lifestyle.

Arneson currently sits second in the conference with a per-round average of 75.66, sitting behind only Bellingham's Cody Roth. Both will likely be contenders for top-10 finishes at the Class 2A state championships held May 28-29 at the Chambers Bay Golf Course, but there's still much golf to be played between now and then.

Arneson's coach at Lynden, Russ Dorr, said players like him are a rare breed. He's speaking to the sophomore's mentality on the course, and his mental makeup being that of someone much older.

"He's a seven-day-a-week player, and a seven-day-a-week thinker," Dorr said in a phone interview. "He's all golf."

His dedication came a bit later than most, with Arneson having just four years of competitive golf under his belt - far less than most with his skills, Dorr said. The perfectionist in him has led to a rapid ascension in the sport, albeit at times it can be one of his greatest faults.

That was the case in Lynden's opening tournament of the year at the North Bellingham Golf Course. Arneson carded an 83, which has stood as his worst score of the season.

"A lot of it was expectations of myself," Arneson said. "Of course everybody wants to hit the perfect shot every time. It's just if you don't hit that perfect shot, what's your mindset after that?"

Bad shots are going to come, he willfully acknowledged, and his biggest progression as a golfer has been his ability to move on from such instances.

His maturation came from time he spent with former Oregon State University men's golfer Alex Moore, who spent as much time schooling Arneson on the mental aspects of the game as he did the physical.

Moore, who graduated from OSU in 2012 as one of the program's most decorated golfers, would return home to Richland during the summer months and play round after round of golf with Arneson at their local course, Horn Rapids. Arneson said he would ask about shot selection and club use, but what he gained over that time reached far beyond the technical side of the game.

"He kind of just told me confidence was the key," Arneson said, "teaching me to trust every shot that I hit. I kind of developed that, and there's not a shot I don't think I can't hit no matter the situation."

Or no matter the course conditions.

Of all the sophomore's performances this year Dorr could have pulled from, it was the 1-over-par 73 he shot at the Avalon Golf Links amid stormy conditions that impressed him the most. Arneson claimed medalist honors, leading Lynden to a win in the six-team field, but it was the variety he played with that caught Dorr.

"He made shots other kids could not make," Dorr said. "He knew how and when to adjust his shots. ... He doesn't panic."

At Avalon, Arneson had the wherewithal to change his game given rain-saturated greens and fairways. But his performance spoke to something more important - to something that will pay dividends when conditions are less than ideal.

"Every round, especially a wet round, if you can get your mindset where you can manage yourself and have a better attitude than most kids, you already won," Arneson said. "Most kids will freak out because it's raining. Use the conditions as an advantage."

Arneson's goals this season aren't tempered. He wants to win districts and place high at state. From all indications, he's well on his way to doing that even as a sophomore.

Reach Alex Bigelow at alex.bigelow@bellinghamherald.com or call 360-715-2238. Follow @bhamsports on Twitter for other Whatcom County sports updates.

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