Polk County senior Avery Harden (photo courtesy Pat McCool)

Avery Harden needed to find his swing. All it took was a change in sports.

Polk County’s top golfer was originally a baseball player, until a little bit of burnout and some tips from his grandfather ignited his golf career.

“I originally played baseball for about nine years,” Harden explained. “It got to seem like a job, and I didn’t really like it anymore. I transferred over to golf and it just clicked. I loved it. And my grandpa taught me.”

He’s one of the top golfers in the Mountain Foothills Conference, and part of that is because he knows when to put golf aside. As committed as he is to his sport and the process of getting better, Harden realizes the need to relax.

“I really try to take breaks,” he said. “It’s good to stay in practice and work on your game, but staying connected with your family members and knowing when to put the clubs away and just go home and enjoy your time is important. Because golf isn’t everything. I love it. It takes a lot of time to be good at it. But you have to enjoy your time.”

He also enjoys that golf is something he can pursue for the foreseeable future.

“I didn’t realize it before I started playing,” he said. “But this could be part of my business and entrepreneurship. Golf can be used for anything. I encourage anyone who’s even a little bit interested in in to get into it, because you can use it for the rest of your life.”

Harden admits he wasn’t great from the very beginning, and that reaching his current level took a lot of work. However, his mindset was to be good from the start.

“I always thought that I could be good at something if I put my mind to it,” he said. “I’ve always been determined. I’ve been pushed by my parents to always do the best that I could. So I’d probably say I knew from the start. But it did take hours and hours of work, and I can’t even tell you how many days I’ve spent 10 hours at the golf course.”

Harden embraces the disciplined practice required to be an elite golfer.

“I do love to practice,” he said. “I’m passionate about the game, and I love looking at it from every aspect. Getting out there and sitting on the range and just imagining a shot, and then playing it like there are a hundred people watching you, and putting that same pressure on every shot, there’s never a dull moment. And then you’re practicing real situations.”

He’s also kind of obsessed with the feedback he gains.

“I love data,” he said. “I’m more of a statistics guy. So, I like to dial things in and see how it transfers. How many greens did I miss? How many putts did I hit? How were they rolling? Usually I just take that after a round, especially if I had a bad round, and go to the range or the putting greens and fix that, then send it back on the course and see the results.”

This year, Harden is embracing his role as the leader of a relatively young Polk County team.

“In the past couple years, I’ve had three other guys who could shoot about what I shoot,” he said. “But they’ve graduated. And this year, I convinced a few underclassmen to come out and play with me. I just try to encourage them and be a leader and give them as many tips as I can. We’re just going to keep moving forward and working hard.”