They say it’s not how you start but how you finish. So when Burlingame’s No. 1 golfer Wyatt McGovern suddenly started struggling toward the end of the regular season, he didn’t panic. When he shot a 10-over 82 on the first day of the Peninsula Athletic League tournament, he stayed calm.
He came back the next day with a 1-under 71 at Crystal Springs Golf Course for the low round of the tournament to vault himself into a tie for second. He then used that momentum to post the low round among county golfers during Central Coast Section qualifying with a 2-over 73 and followed that with a 3-over 74 in the CCS championship round, good for a tie for 17th place.
For his efforts, McGovern is the Daily Journal’s Boys’ Golfer of the Year.
“I had been in a little bit of slump through the end of the high school (regular) season, but I was getting better with my swing. … I knew my game was getting better, but the scores weren’t coming,” said McGovern, who just wrapped up his sophomore season. “I knew I was pretty far back (after the first day of the PAL tournament), but all the pieces seemed to be there. I just knew I needed to put it all together.”
Like all high-level golfers, McGovern has all the tools and like those who have figured it out, it’s not so much the physical parts of the game that determines a player’s success, but the mental game. It’s between the ears where McGovern has excelled.
“Wyatt is extremely long off the tee. He mashes the ball,” said Burlingame head coach Michael Zozos. “But what he does really well is he has the ability to get the ball in the hole. On an errant tee shot or missed green, he has the ability to get up and down consistently. That’s what keeps his scores low. It’s those par saves that really saves your round.”
So McGovern doesn’t always go for the pin when he finds himself trailing in a round and he doesn’t look to make up the difference on one hole. He is just focused on the next shot and lets the score take care of itself.
“I can hit it pretty far … but for me, when I’m at my best, it’s not because I’m … ripping my driver. It’s when I’m playing steady golf, when I’m hitting in smart places and taking the stress off my short game,” McGovern said. “The steadiness is what keeps me around par.”
It’s that steady attitude that keeps McGovern in matches. He doesn’t let one bad — or good — hole dictate the way he’ll play the rest of the round.
“What’s nice about his game is, each round is each round,” Zozos said. “Certainly he can carry momentum, but he doesn’t let a bad score on a hole, or a bad round, hold him back.”
Golf has been part of McGovern for, literally, his entire life. His dad is an avid player and McGovern said he first started hitting balls when he was 4 or 5 years old and he’s been playing junior tournaments since he was 8 or 9.
But golf isn’t his only sport. He is also a member of the Burlingame football team, making his varsity debut this past season as a defensive back and backup quarterback, appearing in all 13 games for the Panthers, which won the CCS Division IV championship. He believes playing football helps his golf game and gives him an advantage over those players who spend all their time on the course.
“I have to be an athlete in football. I have to go to team workouts and stay in shape,” McGovern said. “Walking 18 holes for three days isn’t physically taxing for me. It makes things easier.”
The game of golf is hard enough. Anything a player can do to make it easier can only help and McGovern has worked hard at doing just that.
“I’m always trying to become a better golf. If I can see improvement in my game, then the results will come,” McGovern said. “That’s the thing with golf. You can shoot 80 one day and shoot 70 the next. You have good days and bad days, but you have to be able to deal with them. You have to keep a positive attitude. That’s something I’ve been trying really hard to do.”
Added Zozos: “Wyatt is very analytical when it comes to the game. He grinds and works at his game consistently. I’ve never met a player who worked that hard and worked so meticulously.”