CHEBOYGAN — Last year, Gaylord’s Cole Putnam was supposed to be getting his feet wet in what would’ve been his first varsity golf season.Then COVID-19 happened — and the long wait started.Now, Putnam, just a sophomore, is finally getting his chance to show what’s he’s made of on the course — and he’s delivering in a big way.
On Monday, Putnam fired a 77 to finish runner-up at the Cheboygan Invitational held on a cold day at the Cheboygan Golf & Country Club.The only golfer topping Putnam’s score was Cheboygan sophomore PJ Maybank III, who posted a one-under 71 that earned him medalist honors.For Putnam, it was another top performance this early on in the campaign.“He’s an outstanding golfer,” Gaylord coach Jason Latz said of Putnam. “He’s one of the best golfers in terms of striking the ball that I’ve worked with in my years of coaching. His knowledge of his own swing and the mental talk that he has is one of the best I’ve seen. He doesn’t allow himself to get too high or too low with his rounds. He always finds himself in a groove. He somehow finds a way to come up with a birdie on a hole, when he might have had a double (bogey) before that. He’s a great role model for the kids, and he’s showing himself as a leader on the team. He’s outstanding.“He has no idea how close he is to breaking out and shooting some ridiculously good scores.”Putnam’s showing led the way for the Blue Devils, who finished in seventh place with a 388 score.
Other Blue Devils competing on Monday were Bryce Harding (99), Ezra Gascho (102), Kevin Meisner (110) and Alex Cook (117).Despite the cold and windy weather conditions throughout the meet, Latz said his team was just happy to be out competing in another tournament.“Obviously we played in Cadillac and it was cold, so it wasn’t like we hadn’t seen it before,” Latz said. “The biggest thing was everybody was playing in (the conditions). Being from Gaylord, we’re accustomed to the snow. It was kind of funny, actually. The kids took it in stride with great attitudes, they were just happy to be out there. The nice thing was Cheboygan had about 80 kids come over to play, we came out to play, the course was set up pretty nice. It’s a really nice course to walk for the kids. It’s a fun little course, especially for kids that don’t hit it really far, so it was great for them.”Right now, Latz knows it’s about his young group of players getting as much experience as possible.“What we’re trying to do right now is get as many competitive rounds in as we can,” Latz said. “Some of these kids are picking up clubs for the first time ever, compared to kids that have been playing for a long time and have multiple competitive rounds under their belts. There’s no better time, in my opinion, to get them out there than it was on Monday, where any other round after that was going to be better for them. After the round, they may have not been exactly happy with their results, but most of them are just excited because they got to post a score, and they had never done that before. Most of them, besides Ezra (Gascho) and Cole (Putnam), have never played competitively. Just seeing their progression, you can see it in the scorecards, from hole No. 1 to hole No. 18, just how much they got better.“In a weird way, not having that experience almost made it better for those kids that have never been there before. They were just happy to have a score and be a part of it. It was cool, it was fun.”Cheboygan (330) won the team title, while Traverse City Central (345) took second and Ogemaw Heights (349) was third.Gaylord will travel to play in the Petoskey Invitational on Monday, May 3.