Edwardsville's Hemings hopes to carry success on to SIUE
Edwardsville High School's Justin Hemings was a successful golfer for the Tigers.
During his time in high school, he won the IHSA state championship, snagged three additional medals, won the Telegraph Golfer of the Year award twice and was part of an Edwardsville golf team that won four consecutive conference titles. He hopes to continue that success at Southern Illinois University Edwardsville (SIUE).
Hemings originally attended Northern Illinois University, where he played one semester, but he recently transferred over to SIUE, much to the pleasure of Head Coach Derrick Brown.
"We had recruited Justin out of high school," Brown said. "And we thought he was a good player then and had the qualities that we were looking for -- hard working, great scores as a high school senior. We had a lot of mutual interest, but in the end, he chose to go to Northern Illinois. Just about a week before school started, I found out that he wanted to come back, so we were able to get him back right away this fall."
It's been good so far for Hemings, who just finished playing in his first qualifier, in which he tied for first place. Brown expects Hemings' hard work in the offseason to continue to serve him well.
"He's as hard of a worker as advertised in the recruitment process," Brown said. "Everyone I talked to when I was recruiting Justin told me how hard he worked, and it seems to be true. He's at the golf course before and after everybody else. He's put in a lot of time already. So that was a quality a lot of people told me about, and it turned out to be true, which is a nice quality to see as a coach."
That isn't to say Hemings doesn't have room to grow. Brown likes to see steady improvement from all of his golfers, and with Hemings still a sophomore, he has plenty of opportunity to expand his game even further.
"We always look for improvement," Brown said. "You need to lower your scoring average and improve your mentality on how you maneuver around the golf course to make yourself better. We have benchmarks that we set, and after our first tournament this weekend, we'll set new ones depending on how that first tournament goes. Overall, we're just looking for consistent improvement throughout the year, both on the golf course and mentally; and after each tournament, we'll set new benchmarks on what we want to do."
One of the biggest challenges for students is navigating a difficult travel schedule. The golf team spends a fair amount of time on the road; and with the demands they also have in the classroom, players' schedules can get overwhelming quickly if a student-athlete is not prepared. As a result, Brown preaches one major factor in keeping his players on top of both their golf game and their studies.
"The big thing to focus on is time management," he said. "We hit the road a lot in golf, and obviously studies are important. Golf, family and school are our main priorities during the season, and they need to be able to handle their time well. They need to be able to miss classes and make up the work in an appropriate amount of time and study on the road. It's difficult. If there's one thing they need to concentrate on, it's getting a hold of their time management and doing it the right way. You miss a decent amount of school; and with every time that you miss, you miss a lecture or you got to make up a quiz. It takes a lot of responsibility on the student athlete. They have to make everything up and study in hotel rooms and lobbies. The golf schedule can be very demanding."
Though the season is young, Hemings has impressed the coach with his commitment and work ethic, and if he continues on his current trajectory, Brown figures Hemings to be a key player on what he expects will be a strong overall squad this year.
"It can be hard to tell after two weeks, but judging from what I've seen, we're going to be a pretty deep team," Brown said. "And I do think we'll rotate around a little bit, but I'm definitely looking for Justin to be at the top end of the lineup, and I think he's got the confidence to do it. After each tournament, we'll determine what his new benchmarks are, and hopefully, by the spring, when the conference tournament rolls around, our benchmark is for Justin to be at a high level at the OVC tournament."