As much as he would’ve liked during the first 15 years of his life to be linked to baseball, Hunter Martin’s natural abilities lie in golf.
Martin’s second round of golf was a tryout as a freshman for the Gloucester team. He not only made the team but was starting and averaging 87 for 18 holes just a year later.
By his junior season, he was winning some Peninsula District matches, and by this past season, he was the class of the area. Martin won all but one PD match and posted a regular-season average of 70.83 that was almost five strokes better than any other area golfer.
Baseball is two years in the past now because of injuries to his shoulder and elbow growth plates from playing that sport. Give baseball an assist for making the 2018 Daily Press Golfer of the Year a good enough athlete to excel in golf.
“I’d played baseball since I was 6 and that’s all I thought about,” said Martin, who played in the Cal Ripken World Series at 12. “It gave me the hand-eye coordination to be a pretty good golfer.
“The more I hit the golf ball, the more I fell in love with it. About (the time of the injury), I realized that I wanted to play golf in college.”
Dukes coach Toby Calloway said Martin quickly developed an all-around game in which he’s good off of the tee and on the greens and particularly good with his irons. But Calloway thinks Martin is most naturally suited for the game because of his attitude.
“He has great work ethic, a lot of common sense and knows how to think the game through,” Calloway said. “He doesn’t try to do anything abnormal to make things happen, he’ll just put the ball on the green.”
It is that philosophy that separated Martin from most high school golfers. He said he learned quickly that “golf is an easy sport if you hit the ball straight every time.”
So, because most of the courses the Dukes play are short, he’d hit 3- or 4-irons off of the tee to keep the ball straight in the fairway. Then he’d avoid gambling in the fairways before letting the short game he’s developed in the backyard at home get him close enough to par.
The first PD match he won, as a junior, he shot even-par at Kiskiack, in the Williamsburg area, with 16 pars, a birdie and a bogey.
“My dad (Paul Martin) hates that all my practice around the yard is killing the grass every year, but it’s what’s made (my chipping) better,” Martin said. “I’d say (playing conservatively) easily saves me five shots a match.”
But Martin, who will play for Hampden-Sydney College in the fall, realizes he now must become more aggressive to excel. He says that while playing for par in high school matches is a winning strategy, it will make you an also-ran in elite junior tournaments and in college.
“I’m currently reading this book called ‘Golf Is Not A Game Of Perfect,’ ” Martin said. “The guy (author Dr. Bob Rotella) talks about in the lessons that he gave to students, and the students who had bigger goals, as opposed to more skills, were the ones that were more successful in the future.
“Looking back on this book, I want to be the best golfer at Hampden-Sydney, just going in with that mindset. I know that I can make tournaments, but I also want to be the top golfer there. I think I’m capable of that.”
O’Brien can be reached by phone at 757-247-4963 and on Twitter @MartyOBrienDP