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June 19, 2012 | 05:01 PMWALWORTH — Collin Hubertz did it for fun and didn't think much of it at the time.
The 18-year-old recent Big Foot High School graduate joined the cross country squad in the fall per the request of Big Foot Athletic Director Tim Collins in order to get back in running shape for basketball season. He started running four or five times per week last summer for cross country, usually several miles each day.
What happened next changed his life and helped him enjoy his best golf season of his high school career.
Hubertz went through a complete body transformation, plummeting from 240 to 200 pounds and in turn getting in the best shape of his young life. Collin's hard work paid off. He was the area's only golfer to reach the recent WIAA state tournament, his first career appearance.
"I started religiously running," Hubertz said in a June 11 interview at his home. "I did it just to have fun and it turned out to be a great experience. It freed up my turn in golf. I felt a lot better. I'm still not the fastest guy, I just have more endurance. It helped my turn in swing and helped work on my core."
Then, Hubertz had to jump over a hurdle before golf season. He broke his hand after punching a wall in frustration during basketball season and missed most of it. But he learned from his injury and brought a new attitude coupled with his new shape to the links.
"I came into the golf season thinking if things don't go my way to just move on," Hubertz said. "It really helped my mentality for golf."
Finally healed and in solid shape, Hubertz earned first team all-Rock Valley Conference honors this past spring along with four of his teammates. The Chiefs won the RVC South and took second overall at the RVC meet. The Chiefs even advanced to sectionals as a team. Hubertz said team chemistry was solid all season.
"We weren't the average golf team," he said. "We each had our own little quirky ways. Alex Halma is the only one who looked like a legit golfer. We just kind of show up and have fun with it and never put too much pressure on ourselves. We would challenge each other in practice. It was a playful, competitive spirit, and it was pretty fun."
Individually, Collin breezed through the postseason with a 77 at regionals and an 82 at sectionals to qualify for state. For the season, Hubertz enjoyed four rounds in the 70s. The 77 at regionals was his personal highlight. That day, he shot 5-over par through seven holes then even the rest of the way.
At state, Collin started well on day one with an 82. However, on the second day, he opened with a 10 on the first hole and never really recovered, stumbling with a 94.
"It was my worst round of the year," Hubertz said. "I struggled putting the first day, and it was on my mind the night before day two. On the practice range, I couldn't hit any shots I wanted to. My putting stroke made me timid on the greens. I was trying to force all my shots."
On the first hole on day two, Hubertz said anything that could go wrong did. He suffered two penalty strokes, topped his tee shot and three-putted.
"I did it all," he said of the first hole. "It wasn't until the fifth hole until I finally got a par. It was weird."
On the first day, Hubertz said he was getting to the green well but his putts just weren't falling. As for the experience, Hubertz felt like he was playing at a major professional golf tournament.
"University Ridge is a great course," Hubertz said. "It had all the rules officials. If you'd miss a shot, they'd mark it for you. It was a pretty neat experience, like a high school U.S. Open or Masters. I wanted to shoot in the low 80s or high 70s, but I couldn't stay out of my own head the second day. It was a great way to finish my Big Foot career."
Despite being a three-sport athlete and working, Hubertz was no slouch in the classroom. He boasted a 3.98 cumulative GPA and was fifth in his class. He was named a WIAA scholar athlete. Hubertz will attend Division 3 St. Norbert College next year where he hopes to major in accounting and play golf. How did he keep such high marks despite his sports commitments?
"Time management," he said. "I focused on getting work done in school. I stayed on schedule and made sure I never got behind."
Hubertz's cousin, Joel Blair, was a captain for the St. Norbert's golf squad a few years ago. Hubertz said he's been in contact with the coach and believes he has a good shot at making the team.
"I may not play in matches right away, but if I get to go out and play golf that would be pretty nice."
Hubertz, a lifelong Walworth resident, was introduced to golf by his dad at a young age. But he stopped golf and tried baseball until the fifth grade. That was when Abbey Springs golf pro Jack Shoger took Hubertz under his wing and helped develop his golf game.
"I give a lot of credit to Shoger," Hubertz said. "He really helped me develop my swing. He took me under his wing. One time this season, I was slicing everything and Jack saw my swing. He walked up and touched my shoulder, telling me to close it. I did, and I hit the next ball down the middle."
Also, Hubertz's grandparents, who live across the street from Collin, played a key role in his golf development. Collin would spend most of the summers during his middle school years playing at Country Club Estates in Fontana. Grandma and grandpa would drop Hubertz off at the golf course and pick him up when his day was over. By high school, Big Foot assistant golf coach Wayne Rolfs helped fine-tune Hubertz's grip.
So why did Collin stick with golf?
"It's a way to get away from everything for a few hours," he said. "I always thought I'd play golf in high school. Just before high school, I'd play with my dad every weekend, and he always made me want to get better."
Hubertz said he didn't surpass his dad's skill level until just recently. On the links, Collin's accuracy fuels his game.
"Typically, I can pick my spots and play strategically," he said.
The southpaw always thought it was weird to watch a lefty swing. When Hubertz was little, his parents got him a plastic golf set, and he would keep trying to flip it over and play as a lefty. He throws right-handed, but kicks, swings and bats lefty.
The youngest of three, Hubertz said his family has always supported his golf game. But he didn't allow them to attend his meets until last month's regionals.
"I always thought it would be extra pressure," Hubertz said. "But this year, I let stuff go. I thought they'd actually like to see me play instead of call or text when I'm done."
Hubertz credits Shoger and Rolfs as his inspirations, deeming them the "golf Gods." For all you struggling golfers out there, it takes a lot of practice.
"If you want to get good, it's a pretty big time commitment," Hubertz said. "It takes a year or two to get to a solid level. Golf has always been my thing. Everyone's a football or basketball player. I'm the golfer."