Four year’s ago, Indian River’s golf team was 1-15, a mere shadow of their now consecutive Southern Division championship seasons. Head Coach Neal Beahan’s team had a successful 11-5 season in 2000, but he lacked the necessary players to compete on a consistent basis until a group of freshman joined the team in 2003.
That year, sophomores Billy Powell and Justin Albright, and newcomers Richard Webster and Matt Binsted played a heap of matches and helped the program make a move in the right direction. They went 5-12 that year, in what Binsted called “a serious accomplishment.” And now, through hard work, it looks like Indian River has become a serious contender.
“It was cool to see that we could make that big of a difference,” Binsted said.
“Before, we just didn’t have horses to follow up. But now we have the kids and they’re working hard,” Beahan said. “Now we’ve backed it up and showed we’re not a fluke.”
This season Indian River set a school-record for wins (13) and secured a place in the north-south game for the second straight year. And it’s players like Binsted that have put the Indians over the top.
“He’s a very smart and is very, very hard working,” Beahan said. “He adjusts to the conditions and doesn’t let bad holes bother him. He can recover, and is so resilient and so upbeat, and trusts his abilities, which are increasing every day.”
Binsted trimmed a full three strokes of his last year’s total, for an average of 41 this season — which he credits to consistently working hard and trying to improve on the weak spots in his game.
As a bagboy at Cripple Creek’s Golf and Country Club, Binsted has the opportunity to play more often than not. Between practice and matches, and sneaking in nine holes in on a Saturday, Binsted has plenty of time to tweak his game.
“I try to work on whatever I’m having trouble with,” he said. “If I’m not getting a good full swing, I’ll hit the range. If I’m putting poorly, then I’ll hit the green. But the trick is to do everything to stay sharp.”
Binsted said he even tries to get out at least one or two days in the winter time, just to stay on top of his game.
“The trick is to not be away from the game. I use practice and the off-season to maintain my skills and work on new stuff,” he said.
As a freshman, Binsted admitted, he had a hard time teeing off with a wood or driver, so he used a 4-iron. The ball didn’t go as far, but he did get a quality swing and was able to work the ball around the course instead of having his clubs work him around the course.
“I just decided to play it safe and try to get it around the green,” he said.”
“Sometimes we take risks because [more often than not] it’s appropriate. But sometimes we have to eat it. The initial thing that got us [in trouble] wasn’t the bad things. But sometimes you just have to eat it, shoot for a bogey and go from there.”
Despite never previously playing at the Back Creek Golf Club for the state tournament, Binsted shot an 87 (43, 44) on the first day. But true to his coach’s word, he improved on the final day in a rush to improve the team’s 12th-place standing.
Binsted finished out strong, as did some of his fellow golf buddies from the 5-12 days. Binstead finished right where Beahan thought he’d be, at 82, while Richard Webster trimmed seven strokes from his first day total, for an 84. Albright trimmed five strokes to score an 84 as well.
“If Matt played tomorrow, I’m sure he’d be down in the 70’s,” Beahan said.
Dan Elliot went up from his previous score of 90 to 96, but that doesn’t concern Binsted as far as next year goes.
“We’ve had such an experienced team (over the years) that the expectations were that we’d improve on last year’s north/south match,” he said. “That was the first year we were in the hunt and now we definitely have more experience. We have freshmen like Robbie Webster and Tommy Brady, who will continue to improve. Richard and I will continue to play, and Dan Elliot is going to be a stud.”
Beahan moved Binsted into the more advanced groups during the conference tournament, giving him a new perspective on his game.
“[Beahan] put me in the second to last group with the big hitters and I went blow for blow with them, which showed me that I could play with anyone in the state,” Binsted said.
“Sometimes he gives you that Phil Mickelson ‘aw, shucks’ smile,” Beahan mentioned after Binsted dropped a nice putt on the ninth hole at Baywood Greens to par the hole, “so it’s just nice to see a kid that works so hard do well.”