Powers decision to stay close to home paying off

Chris Rambo and Chris Rambo

Normally, when a college athlete inks their name to a letter of intent, the journey from high school to collegiate athletics is a difficult one.

There is a new campus to figure out; a new coach, with whom a relationship must continue to be built; new teammates to become acquainted with. For BG golfer John Powers, the transition was completely different than most, due to the fact that, in his case, many of those traditional challenges facing a freshman were alleviated long before he officially became a Falcon.

Powers spent the vast majority of his childhood growing up within walking distance of BGSU.

His father, Buddy, served as coach of the University’s hockey team from 1994-2002 (Buddy was also an assistant with BG’s 1984 National Championship team), and his mother, Lindy, currently serves as the assistant director at Forrest Creason Golf Course.

From the time he entered grade school, BG played a large part in Powers’ life. With athletics also so prevalent in his upbringing (his two sisters, Barbara and Caroline, are also both Division I college athletes), John seemed to seamlessly acquire dual passions for both hockey and golf at a young age. He ice skated for the first time at the age of 4, and by the time he was 6, John was playing both sports.

“Golf and hockey were both easy for me to get into,” Powers said. “Growing up, I was always around both them, and it really worked out seasonally because I could play one in the winter and one in the summer.”

During summer evenings and weekends, the Powers family used golf as a way to spend time together, frequently enjoying rounds at nearby Bowling Green Country Club, and making the one-hour drive to Upper Sandusky, Ohio, to play Lincoln Hills Golf Club, a family-operated course.

“Mostly everyone in my family plays golf,” Powers said. “So we would play together a lot and always have a pretty good time with each other.”

By the time he was 12, Powers began playing in various golf tournaments around the area. At this time, he had already met and developed a friendship with current BG men’s golf head coach, Garry Winger. When Winger came back to Bowling Green in 1998, following his pro career, he developed a close relationship with the Powers family.

“It’s funny. I remember baby-sitting John and his sisters when they were younger, and now John’s sisters baby-sit my little kids,” Winger said. “We’ve just enjoyed a tremendous relationship over the years. The Powers’ are a very gifted family and just a great pleasure to spend time with.”

As John evolved into one of the better junior golfers in Ohio, the close personal connection that he and Winger shared made recruiting an interesting experience.

“I saw right away that John was a very good player in all areas of his game, and that he could definitely compete at this level,” Winger said. “I really wanted him for our program, but on the other hand, I didn’t want to use our relationship to pressure him to come here. It was a little bit of a balancing act.”

In the end, Powers opted to stay close to home, choosing BG instead of Miami of Ohio.

“I just felt like it was a better fit for me here,” Powers said. “It was close to home, and I really felt that coach Winger’s straightforward style of communicating suited me best.”

Although he came to BG already quite familiar with both the University and the coach, the transition to college golf was not as simple.

Powers had won his fair share of tournaments in high school employing a go-for-broke style in which he simply mashed a driver as long as possible and fired at flagsticks with what was routinely a short-iron in hand.

Powers soon discovered that such an aggressive approach would not translate to the college game, where the courses are longer and narrower and the competition better.

“I was a little overwhelmed during my first semester,” Powers said “I could not score consistently because my course management was just awful. I realized that I needed focus on my decision-making a lot more than I had in the past if I was to have the kind of success I knew I was capable of.”

Things began to swing in Powers’ favor that spring. In his first two times out, he saw progressive improvement, finishing 32nd at Eastern Kentucky and 14th at Marshall. Three weeks later, Powers put it all together, rallying from a six-stroke deficit at the beginning of the final round to win the University of Dayton Spring Invitational by a single stroke.

“Everything just broke well for me that week,” Powers said. “I was finally able to put the ball in the fairway consistently, which made a world of difference for me.”

Throughout the course of the last 2 1/2 years, Powers has developed into a stalwart for Winger and the Falcons, averaging 74.89 during his sophomore and junior seasons. He is the type of player who can always be counted on to put up a solid score, nothing really too flashy, but nothing too damaging either, which Winger says is most important.

“I don’t remember John really shooting a lot of bad scores over his career,” Winger said. “He is almost always there when we need him. His course-management has improved a ton since he came here.”

After a flare-up of his driving ills caused a string of disappointing finishes to close out last fall, Powers diligently attacked the problem during the winter, going through hours of repetition in hope of grooving his swing precisely the way he wanted. The pay-off this spring was immediate: a sixth-place finish at the season-opening Palmas Del Mar in Puerto Rico, and confidence that the last semester of his Falcon career will be a memorable one.

“This was the first time that John really got to put in a lot of work during the winter,” Winger said. “Last winter he was sidelined with a broken wrist, and before that we did not have our indoor facility, so he really couldn’t work on his game the way he wanted.”

For Winger, to see someone who he watched grow up before his eyes mature into the model of dependability and consistency as a senior has to be nothing short of gratifying.

The 10th-year coach summed his senior’s impact on the program this way.

“Guys like John make my job a whole lot easier,” Winger said. “I lean heavily on him for a lot of things. I can’t always be with the team, but he does a great job of taking charge and making sure everybody is getting all the work in that they need. He has really been a terrific asset to this program.”