BY DON HOHLER
When Travis Bleile started to control his temper, his golf game did a complete turn-around.
The 2010 St. Paul graduate proved this over the last three weeks in winning four Lake Erie Junior Golf Association events, all on good golf courses with score anywhere between 76 and 81.
“It was not that long ago when Dad (Ken Bleile) would take me to the golf course, expecting that I would play 18 holes and enjoy the round,” Bleile said. “But, it always seemed to end up the same way. I would play a half dozen holes, make some bad swings and my day was done.
“Well, those rounds are in the past,” he added. “I have since realized that even temperament is key to winning golf tournaments. Now I see others acting the same way I did and see them going the wrong way.”
Probably because of his tantrums, the son of Ken and Cheryl Bleile, played no tournament golf until he was a freshman.
“My lack of experience probably showed,” Bleile said. “My strength already then was how far I hit the tee ball. But since then, I have learned that the 320 yard drive is just the first shot of a hole. To complete it successfully, you must be able to handle a wedge and putter. I work a lot more now on my short game. As I see it this summer, if I am hitting the driver solid, my wedge play will keep me in contention.”
Bleile remembers one varsity match as a freshman. As a sophomore, he played half of his matches at the varsity level.
“The more matches you play at the varsity level, the easier it becomes to make the good swings. You become more confident in the fact that you belong up there,” he said.
As a junior, coach Dave Weisenberger had him playing No. 3 at the start of the season, but when the pro saw him faltering in pressure situations, he moved him down to No. 5.
“I remember our win at the Mapleton Invitational that year,” Bleile said. “It came down to the fifth man and I had a great round, mainly because I had no pressure on me handling my opponent. It got to the point that in 18 hole events, I was shooting scores in the high 70s, very good numbers for a 5.”
There was not much question where Bleile would play as a senior. With a drive that consistently measured 300 yards, he had things pretty much his way when the Firelands Conference season started.
“I mean I had a bunch of confidence last fall,” he said. “When I hit the ball hard, I would get it out there 320. On short courses, I hot a lot of wedge shots.
“In LEJGA events, some of the guys I am paired with kept up with me when I didn’t catch it square,’’ Bleile added. “So, there are guys out there that hit it just as far. That said, the wedge and putter truly becomes the determining factor.”
Bleile won at Fremont Country Club with an 80. He won again at Willard with 76. He picked up a third win at Fostoria Country Club, carding a 78 and then got No. 4 at Sleepy Hollow, shooting a 78.
“My schedule is such that I arrive at the course 20 minutes to a half-hour before my tee time, hit a few practice putts, and go to the first tee,” Bleile said. “I may have to make a change and get to the course a bit earlier and hit some range balls. A recent trend of mine is playing the first nine holes poorly and then playing the second nine at par or better.
“I went out in 45 at Fremont, but then shot a 36 on the closing nine to win,’’ he added. “I did the same thing at Red Hawk in Findlay Tuesday, playing the opening nine in 45 and then finishing with a 37. This time it was not good enough.”
Bleile has Ashland CC, Sawmill, Eagle Creek and the Fremont CC Invitational left on the schedule.
“It would be nice to win on my home course,” he said.
If he did that, he might send a message to the field in the upcoming Eagle Creek Men’s Championship scheduled for early August.
“I played last year in the men’s event, shooting a 78 in the rain on Saturday, but then shot my way out of it with an 85 on Sunday,” Bleile said. “I’ll try it again next month.”
Bleile will major in computer information systems at Arizona State in the fall.
“When I was a kid, I enjoyed take computer’s apart just to see how they worked,” he said. “So, I guess, you could say I am going from hardware to software in college.”
As far as golf?
“I might try and walk on,” he said. “The A.U. program is a good one so it will be a long shot. But, who knows?”