MIDDLEBURY — Already a licensed pilot, Northridge High School golfer Will Erekson will have his sites set a little closer to the ground on Saturday, June 7.
That's when Erekson and his Northridge teammates will join 12 other area schools at the Black Squirrel Golf Course in Goshen for sectional action beginning at 9 a.m.
Erekson stamped himself as a possible state title contender in May, when he won the Northern Lakes Conference individual championship by shooting an eye-opening 66 at the Christiana Creek in Elkhart.
Erekson's round included seven birdies, 10 pars and one lone bogey. Oh, and it took him just 24 putts to complete his round.
"Will simply had an excellent day of golf,'' Northridge coach Dennis Sienicki said. "He put himself in great position all day to get up and down and he obviously putted very well too. To shoot a 66 as a high school senior is an excellent accomplishment.''
Erekson is a four-year letterwinner at Northridge and one of the key reasons the Raiders enter tournament play with a 17-1 record.
"I think the key to Will's success comes from when he was playing for us as a young golfer,'' Sienicki said. "He wasn't a long hitter then, so he worked very hard on his short game and that became the strongest part of his game. But as he's matured, he hits the ball further off the tee, but he's also kept his touch around the green.''
"I do think that learning the short game first has helped me,'' Erekson agreed. "Coach is right, I didn't hit the ball real far as a freshman and sophomore, so my short game was very important to any success I had. Now I can hit the ball further, but I believe my putting is still the best part of my game.''
One thing Sienicki stresses at Northridge is team play, even though many consider golf to be an individual sport. Erekson has advanced to the state finals the last two years, although he admits his trip as a sophomore when the Raiders advanced as a team was more memorable.
"When the team qualified it was a much better experience,’’ Erekson said. “Last year we didn’t make it as a team, but I was able to advance and it just wasn’t the same. I missed the camaraderie with my teammates and the sense of fighting for a team title. It’s just so much different.’’
According to Sienicki, the key to the Raiders advancing to regional competition doesn’t really depend on Erekson.
"I know Will will be strong, but a lot will depend on our third, fourth and fifth golfers,’’ Siennicki said. ”At the NLC meet, we had four guys in the top 15, so I know our depth is good. It’s just a matter of all five guys playing well on the same day.’’
If they Raiders do qualify for the state finals, which are held at The Legends Golf Club in Franklin later this month, they will be taking a bus, even though the team’s No. 1 golfer could actually fly them there.
Erekson plans on majoring in Aviation at Purdue next fall, where he hopes to walk-on as a golfer, and has been interested in flying most of his life.
How interested? Well the 18-year-old earned his pilot’s license last August.
"I did most of my training out of the Elkhart airport, but I also fly into the Mishawaka Pilot’s Club,’’ Erekson said. “The farthest I’ve flown so far is to Indianapolis to pick up my sister from college and that was really great. My dream is to someday fly commercial jets or be a pilot for the rich business owners and fly them around the country.’’
But for now, Erekson will keep his feet on the ground and try to have his teammates join him once again at the state finals.