It's calm, and it's confident. And it's for

By David Carducci Record-Courier staff writer Published:

It's calm, and it's confident. And it's for a good reason.

The Crestwood senior, who makes his district tournament debut at the Hinckley Hills Division I tourney Thursday, is playing the best golf of his life, and he's set to play the biggest round of his career on a golf course that fits his game to a tee.

"I really like Hinckley Hills," said Hentz, who fired an impressive 76 at Good Park Golf Course in Akron during last week's sectional tournament to win one of four individual qualifier spots for Thursday and the Record-Courier/Robinson Memorial Hospital Student Athlete of the Week award. "I went out and played Hinckley twice this weekend, and I played it a lot better than Good Park. It's better for me because it's not as tight as Good Park, and I'm not really the straightest driver. Even if I hit it a little off the fairway, I have a decent chance of scoring."

What gives Hentz a good shot at posting a solid number this week is his length off the tee.

"I hit it about 270 or 280 off the tee, so I hit it fairly long," said Hentz. "That's probably a little further than most, so it should make the course play a little easier."

It will also help him take advantage of Hinckley's five par-5's, including the 600-plus yard ninth hole, which some players will need three consecutive woods just to reach the front of the green.

Add to that a pair of reachable par-4's and Hentz' confidence is understandable.

In his most recent practice round at Hinckley Hills, Hentz shot a 2-over 75. That is the target for Thursday.

"I think a 74 or a 75 should probably get out," said Hentz. "I'll have a chance at that if I keep my drives pretty straight. The greens are big out there, and I don't think they are too tricky. So if I leave the ball in the right place, I'll have a chance."

Just two weeks ago, not many people would have given Hentz a chance to survive the sectional after he shot a disappointing 88 at Oak Knolls in the Portage County League Tournament.

But the two-time, first-team All-PCL golfer turned his game back around in time to post one of his best rounds of the year at Good Park, and he did it without the benefit of a practice round.

"I just had a really bad day at the PCL," said Hentz. "I'm not sure why. I really didn't have anybody on the team push me all year. But then when I got to the sectional, I had a reason to want to play well."

Hentz has been playing well since his sophomore year. That season, his game turned the corner.

"I started playing golf probably when I was 10, and I always liked it," said Hentz. "But I didn't start playing a lot until I was 13 or 14. When I first started (in high school) I was pretty sporadic. I'd shoot 40, then 50. But then my sophomore year I started shooting consistent scores in the 40s. I practiced a lot at Sugar Bush, and got some help from the pro there, Dave Donald. He knows what he's talking about, and he's helped me out a lot. I'm having a lot more fun now."

The hard work is evident in Hentz' scoring average, which has dropped from a nine-hole average of 47 his freshman year to 39 this season.

If Hentz finishes as one of the top four individuals Thursday, he will become the first Crestwood golfer to play his way to the state tournament in Columbus.

"I don't really feel any pressure," said Hentz. "I feel like I have a

good chance, and it would be nice to do something like that in my senior

year."

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