Higham standard: Raising the bar
Published: Tuesday, February 26, 2013
Updated: Tuesday, February 26, 2013 14:02
In areas with temperate weather conditions, golfers are able to hone their skills year-round. For members of the USU golf team, the weather in Cache Valley creates some unique challenges.
Despite Logan’s icy fairways and snow-covered putting greens, junior golfer Tanner Higham has managed to maintain his skills. He took first place in a recent tournament in St. George, Utah. Higham’s victory marks the first time an Aggie golfer has won or tied for first place in a tournament since 1996.
Higham also scored sixth overall at the Folino Invitational, hosted by California State University, Fullerton on Tuesday in Industry, Calif.
He was named the Western Athletic Conference Golf Athlete of the Week for Feb. 11-17. Higham is the first USU golf athlete to receive the award in nearly a year.
Higham was also named the America First Credit Union Utah State Student-Athlete of the Week for the same time period. He was chosen for the award by a statewide media panel for the second time this year and third time in his career.
“To have Tanner play that well in the middle of February, when there is two feet of snow on the ground, just shows what kind of a person he is,” said head coach Dean Johansen. “He is probably the best all-around athlete I’ve ever had come through here.”
Higham, a native of Shelley, Idaho, said he plays more conservatively in the winter season and takes fewer risks in order to perform better in competitions.
“Something that our coach always talks about and that I’ve tried to implement is to not try to hit shots that you’d try during the summer or when you’re totally on top of your game,” he said.
Johansen said the challenges the team faces are unique when compared to other universities with weather conditions that allow for outdoor practice year-round. Despite a fully-funded golf program with scholarship opportunities, Johansen said the weather conditions must be discussed with potential Aggie golfers when recruiting.
“I don’t tell them we live in a banana belt when we don’t,” he said. “I’ve been very fortunate with kids that are willing to put in the extra effort. Golf is just like any sport — if you don’t do it on a regular basis, you lose a little bit of your touch. These guys are good enough they get it back fairly quick.”
Seokwon Jeon, a freshman on the team, said he had trouble adjusting to Utah State’s abnormal golf season. To avoid playing during the coldest months of winter it is split into two shorter seasons that optimize the use of warmer parts of the year.
“It’s stressful not being able to practice when you have a tournament coming up,” he said. “It’s kind of hard on me mentally. I feel like I’m stressed going into the tournament because I’m not preparing, because I’m not practicing every day.”
Higham said he and other teammates travel to Ogden several times a week in order to practice at an indoor range. The team also travels to St. George two to three times a year to prepare for tournaments.
“We’ve come out the last couple springs sharper than we ever have in the past, so it seems to be working so far,” Johansen said.
Despite frequent travel for practice and tournaments, Johansen said the golfers on his team have maintained a combined GPA of 3.5. Their focus on education is phenomenal, he said.
“It’s amazing how hard these kids work,” Johansen said. “I have a picture of my kids in the Orange County Airport, and they’re all, every one of them, just lined up on their computers doing homework. The ten kids I have now are very serious about their education — it comes first.”
“It’s pretty busy,” Higham said. “I just make sure that I have everything organized and manage my time well.”
As the team prepares for its next tournament in March, Johansen said they will continue to prepare for the Western Athletic Conference tournament in May.
“The WAC, right now, is there for the taking,” he said.
Johansen said Higham is deserving of the honors he has received and that his dedication and humility is reflected in both his athletic and academic performance.
“He’s just an athlete, that’s all there is to it,” Johansen said. “He thinks like one, he’s built like one, he acts like one and he’s a straight-A student. He’s the total package of an athlete. A Tanner Higham doesn’t come around very often for any coach.”