JACKSBORO—Hannah Lay was joined by her family last Tuesday evening, as she signed her intent to Tennessee Wesleyan to play golf.
The Campbell County senior was one of four golf athletes to sign to colleges this year.
“We’re very excited,” Tennessee Wesleyan coach Stan Harrison said. “We think Hannah has just an unbelievable amount of potential as a golfer, because she works hard at it. I really believe that her better golf days are ahead of her, so we’re really excited to bring her into our program. It’s a program on the rise, and we think she’ll be able to help us take steps forward.”
That’s big words, as Lay missed the state tournament by only one stroke.
“A few inches,” she said.
The senior played a three-hole playoff at the end of the Region 2-AAA tournament, narrowly missing state competition.
“I’ll have to do that again, I’m sure,” she said of the college days ahead of her. “I’ll know what it’s like, and I’ll try not to be so nervous and excited.”
To both Harrison and Campbell County coach Gabe Keen, the experience can only make her better.
“The pressure in that situation, everybody’s walking behind you,” Keen said. “It was her versus the other girl, and it kind of just comes down to one putt. That’s about as much pressure as you can get.”
“Every time you’re in one of those, it’s making you better,” Harrison continued. “Whether you win or not is not as important as experiencing it. Those types of situations help you relax when you’re in that situation again. That’s very important for a golfer to stay focused and in the moment to not let nerves get the best of you. That can only be a positive experience for her going forward.”
However, playing the playoff in the regional tournament wasn’t the only nerve-wracking thing the senior has done.
Lay says signing to play golf at the next level is something she never thought she’d have the chance to do.
“I’ve not always played golf,” she said. “Ever since I’d started, I liked it, and I decided I wanted to play in college. I’m really excited. I’ve worked really hard to be able to get here.”
According to Keen, the senior has grown in her final season at Campbell County High School.
He said because of that hard work, she’s now signing to a college at the end of the year.
“She’s grown a lot,” he said. “It’s not like she started at the bottom, either. She started the year as a good golfer, and over the course of the year, you could see her getting better and better and better. That’s why she’s in the position she’s in.”
Upon arriving at Tennessee Wesleyan, however, the work doesn’t stop.
According to Harrison, the Wesleyan program has a lot of new technique to help golfers with more than just their swing.
“We’ve spent a lot of time focusing on the mental aspects of the game, thinking your way around a golf course, managing the course itself and staying focused on playing the course instead of your opponent,” he said. “We’ll spend a lot of time on the mental aspects, but also, my guess is that she’s not spent a lot of time in fitness training that is designed for golf. We’ll make her a physically and a mentally stronger golfer to go along with a really strong work ethic that she has.”
Lay will join a school that is about the same size as Campbell County High School. Enrolling about 1,100 students, it should ease the nervousness of a new situation, according to Harrison.
“It’s in a small town, like LaFollette, and it’s just a comfortable environment for her,” he said. “She can be that big fish in a small pond, instead of the other way around.”
For Lay, it’s just good to be playing golf at the next level after her work has paid off.
“I never really thought about playing golf when I was younger, so I never really thought about signing to colleges,” she said with a smile. “I was in a rut, but I just kept practicing and practicing. It was really exciting to finally see yourself improve after all your hard work.”