Thomas Hursey has a target on his back.
Unfortunately for his competitors, he performs best under pressure.
The sophomore has jumped to the top spot of the Bulldog roster, leading the team into the first rounds of tournaments with low scores while improving his own scores. He helped the team grab top three finishes in the past two tournaments.
On April 5, Ferris made the podium by a convincing 23 shots over John Carroll University. Hursey shot a 71, 69 and 68 in the three rounds of play, finishing eight-under par. With a final scoring of 208 shots, Hursey took home first place honors for the first time this season.
“The feeling was great. I definitely felt very comfortable at that golf course, so going in I knew I had a good game plan,” Hursey said.
Feeling comfortable has been his key to success this year, especially with the expectations that come from his performance last year. Being last year’s GLIAC Golfer of the Year put a target on his back, but remembering what brought him to the game of golf helps ease the tension.
When he fell in love with the sport as a child, it was his father that helped him improve as he aged. But a more unconventional approach to learning the game is the reason why Hursey is strong under pressure when the spotlight is shining.
“[My father] introduced me to the game and really taught me how to think through the game, rather than how to swing the club,” Hursey said. “He instilled the mental aspect of the game of golf before he taught me the fundamentals of swinging the club.”
Golf is a mentally draining sport. From the average Sunday golfer to Tiger Woods, from the first tee to the 18th green, it’s a battle between the ears. As a collegiate golfer who has already experienced winning to the extent that Hursey has, it’s easy to get lost in all the outside noise.
The accolades that he’s already accumulated throughout his time at Ferris are impressive and lengthy. He was named 2020 GLIAC Golfer of the Year, 2021 Dean Davenport Men’s Athletics Bulldog of the Year, 2019 GLIAC Freshman of the Year and received multiple all-conference honors.
“Golfer of the year is a cool honor that comes along with a good season, but my main focus every year and every tournament is on the team,” Hursey said. “When the team is playing well is when I’m the most excited to be out there. Outside noise is at the end of the day, just noise. You’re always going to hear it but it’s whether you choose to let it affect you or not.”
Before Hursey became a Bulldog, he had the opportunity to go to Saginaw Valley State. However, he chose Ferris and has helped propel Ferris in the GLIAC standings, where the Cardinals currently sit in fourth.
It was love at first sight when Hursey came to campus.
“The recruiting process was great for Ferris. I loved it as soon as I arrived and knew it was the spot for me,” Hursey said. “I was also recruited by Saginaw, but at the end of the day, I knew Ferris was for me. I’ve been happy ever since.”
However, Thomas’ experience with coaching is different than a lot of other collegiate athletes. Having a coaching switch early on, the changing of cultures wasn’t always easy.
Head Coach Sam Stark took over for the Bulldogs in 2019. Leaving a tough task ahead for him and the Bulldog squad, but a culmination of hard work and chemistry led to a desired culture within the team. And being one of the veterans on the team, Hursey has helped his teammates with the skills that he’s learned a long the way.
“Thomas is our most relentless competitor throughout practice, competition, workouts,” Coach Stark said. “He pushes our players every day, and is always the one getting the extra work in, but is one of the most humble and genuine players I’ve been fortunate enough to coach.”
Hursey and the Bulldogs have had an interesting time preparing for this season. The unpredictable Michigan weather has given them 70-degree days, snow in April, stretches of rain for days at a time and days where the temperature dips below freezing.
Since Katke Golf Course has struggled with opening the course this year, the golf team has had limited opportunities to play outside. it was only last week that the team was able to make it on the course.
Luckily, the program is blessed with the state-of-the-art Ken Janke Golf Center, which houses multiple swing simulators and practice greens. This is a valuable training aid that not many Division II programs have.
“It’s been massive,” Hursey said. “It gives us such an advantage over teams, especially when we get into regionals and nationals.”
An facility like the Ken Janke Golf Center allows for Hursey and his teammates to have a place to improve their craft in the winter months.
Another tough part of the student-athlete life is the difficult task of balancing school, athletics, a social life and one’s health. All this is made more difficult with a challenging major.
There are also differences in Hursey’s eligibility. Academically he is a senior, but athletically he still has a few more years left to compete. But the real question is whether he will stay a Bulldog for those remaining years.
“I am still in the process of deciding my future,” Hursey said.
Hursey and the Bulldogs made a splash in the GLIAC tournament, beating Grand Valley in the semi-finals of the tournament 3-2 but falling in the final medal match against Davenport 2-3.
Now, Ferris and Hursey will look toward the NCAA Regional beginning Thursday, May 5.