Brendan Aussem didn’t spend much time this summer getting his golf game in shape. His body and his future? That’s another story.
Aussem, an Avon Lake senior and three-time Division I state tournament qualifier, made a big decision over the summer, one that was a little more important than whether to chip or putt from the fringe.
You see, when you can shoot a 63 in a practice round after spending very little time on your game or fire a 68 on a course fit for professionals in a prestigious tournament like the Optimist International Junior, well, a future in golf is not only practically assured, it’s pretty much expected.
Aussem wasn’t interested in the expected, however, so on June 6, his 18th birthday, he enlisted in the Marines.
Goodbye playing it where it lies, hello Semper Fi.
“I want to do something more challenging with my life,” Aussem said. “Something more meaningful.”
Aussem said he first thought about a life in the military as a freshman, but as his golf game improved he turned his focus on that, and with good reason.
After not even making the Avon Lake varsity initially as a freshman, he ended the year a surprise state qualifier. The next year he helped get the Shoremen to the state tournament, then last year he won an intense playoff to make it back to state for a third straight season.
Along the way he played a ton of summer golf, qualifying for the Optimist tourney in Florida each of the past two years.
But as thoughts about his future beyond high school moved from the abstract to the oh, so real, his decision became more and more clear to him.
So when he turned 18, he didn’t hesitate.
“I just wanted to do this before I overthought it,” he said. “So I signed up and I haven’t looked back. I love it.”
It seems to love him, too. Since joining the Delayed Entry Program in May and meeting with recruiters, going through workouts and learning about life in the Marines, Aussem has lost 46 pounds.
“I’ve gained a lot of muscle, I’m stronger,” said Aussem, who added that he also changed his diet, cutting out junk food, and started running. “And I know more military knowledge than I ever knew before.”
Most Mondays, Wednesdays and every other Saturday, he meets at the Recruiting Substation in Lorain to work out for an hour and a half with some 20-25 other recruits, while also getting up to date on military life and history.
On a rainy Monday two weeks ago they went to the beach and did low crawls though the wet sand.
“It was fun,” Aussem said.
He hasn’t forgotten about golf, though, which is good news to Avon Lake coach Amy Manco, who is counting on Aussem to lead a veteran team that has designs not only on a Southwestern Conference title but another trip to the state tournament.
Besides Aussem, the Shoremen also have senior twins Clay and Zach Sharb, also in their fourth year on varsity, and Austin Kryc, a senior in his third year in the lineup. Hunter Tharp, another senior and the winner of last year’s inaugural Lorain County Golf Coaches Association tournament, and junior Grant Harley give the Shoremen five players who are threats to shoot in the 70s whenever and wherever they tee it up.
In fact, Aussem and the Sharbs were key members of the last Shoremen team to make state two years ago.
But Aussem is the main man as his 75.4 18-hole average last year attests.
“He’s capable of doing anything out there,” Manco said of Aussem, who proved her point when he made back-to-back eagles on the way to a 3-under 68 and first place at the North Ridgeville Rangers Invitational at Avon Oaks Country Club during the first week of the season. “Now that he’s not necessarily worried about anybody (college recruiters) looking at him, he can have a lot of fun. He’s just going out there and playing golf.”
Well, not entirely. Aussem does have high expectations for this season.
“I’m completely motivated,” he said. “I want to get to states again and I want to get our team to states again. And I want to do well, not just get there.”
In a high school career of mostly highs, Aussem’s play at state has been a rare downer.
He shot 86 as a freshman, tying for 56th after the tournament was reduced to 18 holes because of rain. As a sophomore he shot 82-83 and tied for 35th as the Shoremen struggled to last place.
Last year, with a ton of confidence and plenty of experience on the Ohio State Scarlet Course, Aussem was tied for seventh after opening with a solid 75. But the good times ended Saturday as Aussem opened with a double bogey and went downhill from there as he limped home with an 89 and another tie for 35th.
“I hit a terrible drive on the first hole,” Aussem said. “I told myself to start out with a good tee shot but I hooked it left into a tree and made double on the first hole. I was playing catch-up all day.”
That led Aussem to start playing a more aggressive style in the hope of making birdies and it backfired.
But that’s behind Aussem, who is excited to move forward with his golf and his future beyond golf and high school. His ship date — when he leaves for Parris Island, S.C., and 13 weeks of boot camp — is June 17, 2013.
He has a lot of golf to play and a lot of fun to have before then, but when that time comes, he knows he’ll be ready, confident he made the only decision that was right for him.
“I love my family and I love everybody who supports me,” he said, “but I have to do what I want to do and not what they expect me to do.”
Spoken like a future Marine.
Contact Kevin Aprile at 329-7135 or email@example.com.