Ben Harden and Austin Fletcher go about the game of golf in very different ways.
Tony Ramseyer, Harden and Fletcher’s coach at Mountain Pointe, will even tell you so.
“They’re very opposite kids,” Ramseyer said. “Austin is a very flamboyant and confident golfer. Ben is a confident golfer, but very humble.”
Harden, who is going to be a senior at Mountain Pointe, is quiet, preferring to take the game one shot at a time. Winning isn’t usually at the forefront of his mind.
“I wasn’t necessarily going out there to win. Until that point I hadn’t won (a tournament),” Harden said. “Usually my main goal in tournaments is to stay in the top-10 (and finish).”
That all changed last month.
On back-to-back weeks, Harden won the Thunderbird Junior Classic’s 15-18 age group on June 12 and then the Mesa City Junior Qualifier in the same division one week later on June 19.
Harden’s win qualifies him for the Junior World Championships, July 15-19 at Torrey Pines in San Diego, cementing him as one of the world’s top amateurs.
“It’s a little weird because I never thought of myself being that good,” said Harden, who finished tied for 38th at the state tournament last fall for Mountain Pointe. “That is really overwhelming to me. Still haven’t really grasped my mind around that I’m playing at a junior world (championship).”
Unlike his former teammate Harden, Fletcher, a 2013 Pride graduate, will let you know that he’s one of the best guys on the links.
“He makes sure that everybody knows that he’s a confident young man on the golf course and he doesn’t have any problems with telling people he’s pretty good,” Ramseyer said. “He goes in to every tournament thinking that he’s going to win it.”
That isn’t to say that Fletcher is boastful or arrogant, it’s more of a fiery confidence. It was that confidence that helped him recover after stumbling out of the gates at the Thunderbird Junior Classic.
Fletcher missed two short putts on the very first hole of the Thunderbird, putting him in an early hole.
“To be honest, If I hadn’t have double-bogeyed the first hole at the Thunderbird, I don’t think I would have shot 65-65. It kind of fueled my fire I guess you could say,” said Fletcher, who tied for fifth at the state tournament in the fall for the Pride. “It made me do a lot better because I got kind of (angry) and then it just kind of turned into positive energy.”
Positive energy became a positive result for Fletcher as he won the championship division of the Thunderbird Junior Classic and the Mesa City Junior Championship.
While the Mesa City championship is a junior world qualifier, Fletcher won’t be heading to Torrey Pines alongside Harden. Being 18 years old, Fletcher is no longer able to qualify for the junior world championship.
Instead, his focus is on winning the Arizona Junior State Championships in Flagstaff, July 9-10.
After the state tournament, Fletcher is headed to Mesa Community College for golf. Although he said his plan at the moment is to get good grades and play good golf, his sights are firmly set in one direction.
“The overall plan is to be on the PGA Tour,” Fletcher said.
At first glance, Fletcher and Harden seem to take very different approaches to a game that, perhaps more than any other, is a mental one. Harden’s placid demeanor seems perfectly juxtaposed to Fletcher’s exuberance.
While Fletcher and Harden go about the mental aspect of golf differently, they were on the same path to the top of the leader board.
• Eric Smith is a junior journalism major at Arizona State University. He is a summer intern at the AFN.