PANDORA — Most golfers will tell you nothing is easy in golf. It takes long years of practice and struggles to unlock its elusive secrets.
But Pandora-Gilboa High School’s Blake Steiner might be one of the exceptions to those unwritten rules of the fairways and greens.
P-G’s No. 1 golfer, who averages 40.7 per nine-hole round and shot an even-par 36 earlier this year, didn’t own a set of golf clubs until a year and a half ago, never has had a lesson and is in his first season of high school golf as a senior.
He shot a 61 for nine holes in the summer of 2019 the first time he was on a golf course for an official round, using a set of clubs his grandfather had found in a recently purchased rental property and carrying his bag under his arm by his side because the strap was broken.
So, how did he get here from there?
Maybe it started with his athletic skills and golf being a good match from Day One.
When he took his first swings with the clubs from the rental property, his grandfather, a lifelong golfer, told him, “You’ve got a pretty decent swing for your first time ever swinging a golf club.”
Pandora-Gilboa golf coach Eric Dysert had the same reaction after Steiner, a football player his first three years of high school, approached him about joining the golf team.
“I’d never seen him play, never talked to the kid before,” Dysert said. “He said, ‘Oh, I’ve been playing a little bit. I’ve been playing with some of the guys on the team and we’re pretty competitive.’ I said, ‘OK, come on out.’
“The first day, the very first swing I saw I thought ‘Where has this kid been hiding?’ The swing is unbelievable. It’s very, very good.
“Once in a while it still shows that he’s new to it. But overall it’s an unbelievable story. He’s hanging with these kids who have been playing their whole lives. It’s crazy,” he said.
Steiner’s first steps in developing his golf skills were chipping balls around his yard and watching golf videos.
He got a few pointers from his dad, his grandfather and an uncle. “But other than that it’s been all watching videos and trying to copy it,” he said. “Basically, I was obsessed with golf. If I find something very intriguing I love to go deep with research.”
When the COVID-19 pandemic closed so many things in March he spent more and more time on golf.
“Really the only thing that was available to do was golf. There was no lifting, no school, everything was shut down. The only thing open was the golf courses. Even if it was freezing cold it was really the only thing to do,” Steiner said.
Along the way he moved up from his garage sale level clubs to clubs borrowed from his uncle and dad to getting fitted for a new set of Ping i210 irons.
He also made a tough decision to move away from football, which he had started playing in the third grade.
He was combining football two-a-days practices and trying to be part of the golf team in August. After shooting a 41 in an early-season match against Ottoville and a 36 on the back nine at Bluffton Golf Club the week of the first football scrimmage, he decided he was going to play only one sport.
Steiner would be interested in playing golf at the college level. “Absolutely,” he said. “I never had the thought of doing it collegiately when I went into it but I’ve kind of fallen in love with it. I have not been reached out to but I plan on emailing colleges and sending out my swing to them.”
Pandora-Gilboa will play in the Division III boys district tournament at Stone Ridge Golf Course in Bowling Green on Thursday.
This is the first time in several years that golf has been a varsity sport at P-G after many seasons as a club sport. There are 13 players on its roster.
With returning lettermen Jacob Suter, Grant Farthing, Eli Huffman and Sam Norton, along with Steiner in the starting lineup, the Rockets finished second behind Allen East in the sectional at Sycamore Springs last week. They also were third in the Putnam County League and third in the Blanchard Valley Conference.
“We were a club sport the last two years. As far as I can tell, it’s been since the ’90s since P-G has had a team prior to that,” Dysert said.
“We were actually still supposed to be a club team this year but it worked out that both of the leagues, the BVC and the PCL, were very welcoming to add us into their league so the school said, ‘Sure, if they want you we’ll support you a year early,’ and it worked out,” he said.
Reach Jim Naveau at 567-242-0414.