Jake Hanzel shot a 73, winning the title with a tie-breaking playoff putt
Washington Township High School senior Jake Hanzel started the South Jersey Group IV tournament with a birdie on the first hole, the same hole he would later play again in a tie-breaking playoff to win the title. Hanzel advanced to the state championship, the Tournament of Champions, to be held on Monday.
This year was the fourth year Hanzel had played at Linwood Country Club for the sectional tournament, but the first time he took home the title.
“I was pretty familiar with the course and knew what I had to do to play well, so I was pretty comfortable with the golf course at that point,” Hanzel said. “It was really windy so I knew I couldn’t really expect a lot. I just went in with no expectations and just wanted to see what would happen. I was pretty happy with the result.”
According to Head Coach Shane Snyder, Hanzel is the second in the high school’s history to win the individual title. Former player Joe Russo was the first four years ago. Snyder said the team has never had an individual player win the state tournament.
“It was big for him,” Snyder said. “I know he’s always wanted to win a high school tournament, so for him to finally do it was great for him — great for his confidence and all the work he’s put into the game of golf. It was really good to see.”
Hanzel shot a 73 to tie Lenape High School’s Doug Ergood, bringing Hanzel back to his first hole in a playoff.
“Replaying the first hole in the playoff, I was thinking of exactly what I was doing when I played it the first time, and it ended almost exactly the same,” Hanzel said. “It was like an instant replay, it was perfect.”
According to Hanzel, his first stroke in the playoff was approximately 45 yards from the hole, with Ergood close behind, about 10 yards further away. On the second shot, Ergood set himself up to have a 15-foot putt to make birdie, while Hanzel landed three feet from the hole. To break the tie, Hanzel made the birdie putt, while Ergood missed his.
“Last year, I went in to sectionals with the mindset of, ‘I just wanted to get to states,’ and all you need to do to get to states is be top five or a tie for top five,” Hanzel said. “This year, I went in with more of the mindset of, ‘I think I can win, I know I can win,’ and that was the only difference. I played with more of a mentality to win than to qualify.”
Hanzel had the same mentality entering the state championship, held at Hopewell Valley Country Club on May 22.
“He’s riding with confidence,” Snyder said. “He won with a birdie and made some great shots, but he knows there are a lot of really great players there, the best of the best in the state. He’s there for an opportunity to win.”
As one of his last chances to play for the high school team before graduation, Hanzel said he’s just hoping to do his best and put a prideful score on the board.
“I would love to win, I think that’s obviously the main goal, but I just want to put up a decent score, and if someone plays better than me that’s fine,” Hanzel said. “I want to end on a high note.”
Hanzel started playing golf when he was 8 years old. As soon as his youngest brother, who is a freshman on the high school golf team, turned 5, their father started them on the course.
“The game has taught me so much about myself,” Hanzel said. “It taught me to be patient and the perseverance it takes is different than any other sport, in my mind. It is so much more of a mental game and that’s really challenged me.”
Hanzel will be attending the University of Delaware in the fall as a finance major, as well as a member of the Division I golf team.
“Being a part of the team alone is an amazing accomplishment, but I just want to go and make an impact on the team as a freshman and see where that takes me,” Hanzel said. “Hopefully, I’ll play a solid four years, but more importantly I want to crack the lineup as a freshman and play some golf as a freshman.”
In regard to going professional, Hanzel said he has no interest at all, and primarily used golf as an entryway into college. His focus is to become a financial advisor and keep playing golf as an amateur.
Hanzel shot an 80 at the Tournament of Champions on Monday, May 20, held at Hopewell Valley Golf Club, placing in the top 50 out of approximately 120 players from around the state.