SPRING LAKE – Basketball might be a part of his family tree but Spring Lake senior Evan McDermott is branching out with his sports career.
The nephew of Creighton University men’s basketball coach Greg McDermott and the cousin of San Antonio Spurs forward Doug McDermott decided not to follow in the footsteps of his extended family but create his own career path as a standout golfer.
The decision was made even easier for the 6-foot-4 athlete when his family reinforced him to follow his dreams.
“It was pretty easy for me to forge my own path,” McDermott said. “My family has always been supportive of whatever I’m going to do. We’ve got a few golfers in the family as well, and everyone plays (golf) whenever we are all together. I eventually got to a point where I realized basketball wasn’t really my thing and my family wasn’t disappointed that I chose to pursue golf instead.
“That was a really freeing moment for me, especially knowing that they were going to support me no matter what and I wasn’t disappointing them by choosing a different sport.”
A few seasons later, McDermott has made a name for himself as a high school golfer and earned a scholarship to continue his golf career at the University of Nebraska.
“It was really just the people that drew me to Nebraska,” he said. “There are amazing people out there in Nebraska and Coach (Brett) Balak is unreal. We’ve got some great people coming into the program too, so I’m just excited to see some new parts of the country, play some different golf courses, and I think it should be a lot of fun.”
McDermott also considered Michigan State and Grand Valley State University due to the local connections he has made over the years.
“Michigan State has a great golf program and I have some friends there so they were definitely in the running,” he said. “I also considered Grand Valley State because my swing coach (Gary Bissell) is their men’s golf coach and he’s been a great mentor for me. I’m also good friends with Nick Kruger, who plays at GVSU and he’s originally from Spring Lake too.”
Before he heads to The Cornhusker State, McDermott is locked in on winning an individual state championship and helping the Lakers win a team state title as well. Last season, McDermott carded a two-day score of 143 (75, 68) to finish third overall in the individual standings. As a team, the Lakers return an entire lineup that finished eighth overall in the Division 2 field last spring with a two-day score of 627 (320, 307) at the state finals.
“It felt amazing to accomplish what we did last year but we want that trophy,” McDermott said. “We know it’s going to be tough with some really good teams in our division and our region, but I’ve worked harder than I ever have this offseason and I know my teammates did as well. We’ve seen some of that growth already this season, so I’m excited to see where the rest of the season goes.”
Junior Max Brown carded a 158 at the state finals last spring, while senior cousins Dylan and RJ Lisman finished with scores of 161 and 165, respectively. Conrad Bush adds some valuable depth from his fifth spot in the lineup after scoring a 183 at last year’s state finals.
“We have a lot of potential as a team and we’re really just focused on getting better every day at practice,” said first-year Spring Lake head coach Dan Start. “We’re hoping as the weather gets warmer, we start to get more comfortable and start playing better. You can usually expect to drop a few strokes off your score as the weather improves and you aren’t playing in cold temperatures and rain.
“We’re just hoping we can put it all together at the end of the season because it’s difficult to have everyone playing well at the same time. Usually, we have two guys play well and two guys not play well, so once we get everyone clicking at the same time, we’ll be able to reach our potential as a team.”
Start, who spent the previous six seasons as the Spring Lake head football coach, sees plenty of comparisons between the two sports.
“I think you have to have a lot of mental toughness to play both sports,” he said. “In football, you have to respond when your team is down a few scores just like you have to respond in golf when you have a few bad holes. In golf, it’s all about having confidence and turning off that mental brain activity when you’re swinging and trusting your muscle memory. When some guys struggle it’s usually because they hit a couple of bad shots and then start thinking about every shot too much.
“In football, you have to have a quick memory and just move on to the next play. In golf, you have to do the same thing. You have to worry about the next shot and not dwell on what you could have done better during the play or the shot before.”
There’s plenty of mental toughness displayed by this year’s Spring Lake boys golf team, according to Start.
“I really enjoy the mental aspect of golf and this group is very strong in that department,” he said. “We’ve got guys like Evan, Max and the Lismans, who can really play at a high level but just like any other athletes, sometimes the mental game gets in the way. It’s been fun for me to help them work through that part of it and see them overcome those obstacles and improve as golfers.”
The leadership of McDermott has also elevated the Spring Lake golf program as a whole, as expectations have shifted due to his individual dominance on the golf course.
“He’s picking up where he left off last year,” said Start of McDermott. “I noticed this year that it seems like even when he doesn’t play well, he’s still only one or two strokes over par. Last year, if he had a bad day, it was probably three or four strokes over, so he’s gotten better and limiting his mistakes and not letting one bad round turn into two. He shot a 38 the other day and still had three 3-putts, so his potential is through the roof. He’s an incredible golfer and I expect him to just continue to elevate his game as the season progresses.
“I think the other guys on the team are motivated by watching him play at a high level and I think it also lets them swing a little bit freer. They know Evan is going to shoot well, so they can relax and just focus on their game and not press to score somewhere in the mid-30s.”
For McDermott, the opportunity to compete for a team state championship as a senior and potentially leave the program in better shape than he found it would be more rewarding than any individual accolades that would come his way.
“My No. 1 goal is to help develop these players around me,” he said. “That’s what we’re here for and I want to be a good mentor for them. We’ve got a lot of young guys on the team and a lot of freshmen in the program this year, so helping build them up is a big goal for all the seniors.
“Obviously, winning the state title individually would be awesome, but the team trophy is what we’re really striving for. It’s been a long journey. I’ve grown up playing golf at Terra Verde Golf Course in Nunica with guys like Dylan and RJ and to see how far we’ve come since then is amazing. Hopefully, we can end the year with a state championship.”
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