CHATHAM, NJ — Cole Ekert has carved out an unparalleled golf legacy at Chatham High School.
No one has ever performed or put up better numbers for CHS according to Cougar coach Todd Ervin, a man who is usually so understated that he would likely place last in any hyperbole contest.
“Obviously, his average is better than anyone we’ve had,” Ervin said. “He’s put in a lot of work to get where he is. Experience means so much in golf and he’s gotten to be a really, really great player. I’m looking forward to seeing what he can do in college.”
The funny thing is that Ekert does not have a personal golf coach, nor does he study step-by-step analysis of his swing. His secret is sort of like the 1996 golf comedy “Happy Gilmore,” only Ekert doesn’t need to imagine his “happy place” to play his best. He’s already there whenever he steps onto the golf course.
“A lot of people have these mental coaches who say you need to think this and that in certain situations,” Ekert said. “I just have fun with it. I’m focused when I’m on the course and I want to win badly but if I just enjoy myself when I play, that’s when I play my best. For example, when I’m playing with my buddies I’m laid back and I usually play well. I kind of bring that mindset to the tournaments.”
Ekert had a reason to be happier than practically every golfer at the Tournament of Champions played this past Wednesday at the Hawk Ponte Golf Club, shooting a 4-under-par 66 and leading Chatham to the NJSIAA Group 3 state championship and a team runner-up finish in the T of C. No Chatham team has ever reached that level of accomplishment.
The 18-year-old’s score was the best in Group 3 and tied for the second-best score among all golfers at the T of C.
Cole Ekert is the Chatham Wealth Management Athlete of the Week.
“For the most part, I like to keep it simple,” he said. “Some guys analyze where they are during certain parts of their swing. I know my swing is going to be pretty similar day-to-day, so I just need to feel what’s most natural and what will produce the best ball flight. I think once you get the fundamentals down and have the fortitude to know you have the skills and just trust everything, it’s great.
“When I get really wrapped up into getting my elbow here and my arm there, it just kind of goes haywire. I just need to think of hitting the shot I want to see and making the putt I want to make. Kind of go with the flow and let it all drop in place. Keep it simple.”
Ekert has converted the simple into the extraordinary this season, turning in a Triple Crown performance that made him the medalist in the Morris County Tournament, the North Jersey, Section 1 & 2 state sectional, and the top scorer in Group 3 at the Tournament of Champions. He shot under par at all three venues.
“I think the biggest thing is focused practice,” Ekert said. “If you practice really hard and you’re focused, once you get to the actual event, it won’t seem as hard because you’ve put in the preparation. I’ve learned as I matured that you have to stay patient throughout the round.”
The 5-10, 170-pound Ekert has come a long way since a freak accident in which he broke his collarbone on the soccer field made him a full-time golfer five years ago. Because of the injury, he couldn’t play contact sports and turned to the links, where he found that he had the natural ability to play the game.
Although he doesn’t have a coach, he does have someone he considers a mentor from those early days in Peter Chang, the golf pro at Copper Hills who used to work at the Fairmount Country Club when Ekert was starting out.
‘I’ll text him and see him,” Ekert said. “He was there when I started. He’s like a mentor for me. I’ll go see him and play a few holes with him.
“Clearly, my life path would be a lot different if I hadn’t been injured. I’ve made a lot of new friends and golf is now my biggest hobby. I never think what if. I take everything as it goes.”
Ekert now averages 295 yards on his drives and he’s closing in on breaking his own Chatham High record average of 36.7 over nine holes he set two years ago. He now averages 34.6 with three regular-season matches to go next week, along with his final high school event, the NJAC Championships. His 18-hole average has been in the 70 to 71 range.
Ekert will continue playing at the University of Richmond and then see how far he can go with his game.
“It will be nice to play with the college kids who are more experienced and older,” Ekert said. “They’ll push me and make me better in practice.
“I know what I’ve done so far has worked. I meet new people who have tips for me and I’ll try to implement them into my game. A lot of people who get to a certain level, where it’s college or professional, they’re like, oh, I need to change something because I’m on this stage, whereas I just need to keep what I’m doing and take everything how it comes to me. I don’t think I have to change anything drastically.”
Ekert, however, knows that he can definitely improve his putting. When that is going well, he knows he’s going to score well.
“I keep my stats, what percentage of putts I made from this range and whether I was getting up and down,” he said. “That way I can see what part of my game is bad and needs work. I made my putts early (at the Tournament of Champions) and that gave me the confidence I needed.”
Editor’s note: The Athlete of the Week is sponsored by Chatham Wealth Management in recognition of the commitment a Chatham athlete has made to their sport, their school and their community. For over twenty years, Chatham Wealth Management has been committed to putting our clients first by crafting customized investment solutions. Call us at 973-635-4275 or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org to discuss how we can help meet your financial goals. To learn more about our products and team, visit us at www.chathamwealth.com.