Cal's Hale Plays For The Love Of The Game
- Championship Central
By Keyon Johnson
Growing up as the son of a professional baseball player, Stephen Hale assumed that he would follow in the footsteps of his father. And this was his assumption until he met his true love: golf.
Hale, a senior golfer at California, grew up under the influence of his father, former Los Angles Dodgers outfielder John Hale. John wanted his son to understand the importance of a team and playing sports.
"Growing up, my dad and I had a great relationship," Hale said. "He basically pushed me into participating in sports. He didn't really tell me which sport to do, but he pushed in the direction of doing something athletic, whether it was baseball, tennis or basketball."
As expected, Hale initially chose to follow his father's lead and play baseball as a pitcher and outfielder. Hale was a solid player, and was invited to join several traveling teams as a child.
"I had fun [playing baseball]," Hale said. "It was always a good time, having my dad to be able to coach me with batting practice and throwing. It was fun, but I knew for some reason that it wasn't going to be something that I was going to do, because I liked it a lot but I didn't love it."
But he would discover that love at the age of 12. Hale went to the country club near his home to attend a junior golf tournament. Once he saw the game, it lit a spark in him to try it out. He then asked if he could play golf and his dad agreed.
"I loved coaching him as a baseball player," John Hale said. "I told him and his younger brother [Kevin] always, that I loved baseball and that is what I chose to play and I wanted them to choose and play what they wanted to play. If that was baseball that would be great, if it was something else, that would be great.
"I just wanted them to be involved in competitive sports because there are a lot of good things that come from it. I was perfectly fine with his decision to choose golf. I am an avid golfer now after my baseball playing days, so as it turned out someone had to go with him to the golf course when he wanted to play. It worked out just fine."
Once Hale had a year of concentrating fully on golf, his scores began to drop. By the time he entered high school at Garces Memorial in Bakersfield, Calif., he was shooting under par on a regular basis. During his senior year, he shot an average of 69. He credits his dad and great uncle for his success.
"Uncle Lowell is one of the big reasons that I am into golf," Hale said. "Honestly, without him I probably wouldn't be playing golf. He is just as important to me as my dad. He pretty much taught me the basic fundamentals that I kind of morphed in my own way. He always kept me interested in the game and gave me a lot of feedback when I needed help."
His uncle taught him that the sport of golf is all about control, to be in complete control of motions, swings and putting. This is something that has stuck with Hale and he knows that to win the Pac-10 Championship, he will have to be in complete control of his game.
"I think the person that wins will be hitting the ball extremely well and putting extremely well," Hale said. "They will also be in complete control of their mental psyche and their emotions. They won't get angry, and will be able to brush off bad shots. [Teammate Eric Mina] did that last year. You can see that in his score card, whenever he made a bogey he bounced back with a birdie. You have to be able to do that to win a Pac-10 Championship."
As one of the captains of his team, Hale leads the team with a 71.9 stroke average. But that doesn't seem to mean as much to him as his teammates and a Pac-10 Championship.
"My goal is to do as well as I can for this team." Hale said. "Individually, it would be a great honor to win the tournament, but being able to win a team title is probably the most special thing. I will never be able to do that again after this year in golf. That is what I am looking forward to the team aspect and looking forward to how we stack up in the Pac-10."
Stephen plans to pursue his childhood dream and follow in his father's footsteps, and turn professional after the NCAA Championships this year. He understands that the jump will not be easy but he is full of the confidence that was instilled in him by his father and uncle long ago.