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St. Charles’ Walling driving towards second state berth

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St.  Charles’ Walling driving towards second state berth

A driver is normally tailored to a top-notch golfer like a custom-made suit, but that hasn’t been the case for Leo Walling.

The junior from Powell has a 73.3 average for the St. Charles golf team, but he has yet to settle on a driver. That’s something that will come with time.

“I haven’t owned a driver for the entirety of my playing competitive golf, but I was finally fit for one over the winter,” said Walling, who started playing tournaments at age 10. “I had been playing with a driver from ( Dan Gage), the head pro at Wedgewood, and thought it was time to get one fitted for me.

“I used it in the US (Open Local) Qualifier at Scioto Reserve in May and benched it after that. It wasn’t for me. Since then, I have been using a Titleist demo that we got from Wedgewood. I’m comfortable with that.”

Walling qualified for the Division I state tournament as a freshman, tying for 34th (159), but came up short last fall by tying for sixth (72) at district. He hopes for a return to state, but has two important rounds before that.

The Cardinals play Oct. 4 in a sectional at Darby Creek, where the top three teams and top three individuals not on those teams advance to district Oct. 11 at Apple Valley. At district, the top three teams and top three individuals not on those squads advance to state Oct. 21 and 22 at Ohio State’s Scarlet Course.

The Cardinals play Oct. 4 in a sectional at Darby Creek, where the top three teams and top three individuals not on those teams advance to district Oct. 11 at Apple Valley. At district, the top three teams and top three individuals not on those squads advance to state Oct. 21 and 22 at Ohio State’s Scarlet Course.

“The ball is still going to go far on my drives,” said Walling, who drives 270 to 280 yards. “I don’t need that extra 10 yards from a Calloway (driver) when I can have the predictable ball flight I have now. That’s huge for my confidence.”

Walling shot a 70 in the CCL preseason tournament Aug. 18 at Apple Valley, finishing as runner-up to Vaughn Harber (67) of DeSales. The Cardinals (297) finished first, ahead of runner-up DeSales (314), and were going for their 15th consecutive league title in the CCL postseason tournament Sept. 25 at Denison Golf Club.

“Having coached Leo for eight years, he has good focus and he loves to work hard at it,” said coach Brian Unk, who is also Walling’s swing coach in the offseason. “I think he’s a good iron player, but mentally he is really strong. He doesn’t lose focus on any shot, if ever. He will make mistakes in technique, but not because of his focus. That’s a good characteristic to have.”

According to Walling, Unk has helped shape his focus while providing advice.

“This summer, I shot an 82 in an Ohio Amateur qualifier (June 29) at Losantiville (Country Club) in Cincinnati, and I had a USGA (Junior Amateur) qualifier at Hickory Hills the next day,” Walling said. “I called and asked him why I do certain things this way and other things. I was talking on the phone for 30 or 40 minutes about how to think through a round.

“It helped. He also was my caddy (at Hickory Hills) and I shot a 71 to qualify for the (US Junior Amateur) at Bandon Dunes (on July 25-30) in Bandon, Oregon. It’s great to have him there for advice.”

Walling shot 75 and 74 in two rounds in Oregon, missing the cut by five strokes.

Unk believes Walling has continued to improve as a golfer and as a leader for the Cardinals.

“Leo is bigger and stronger, and he hits the ball farther,” Unk said. “He’s a better ball-striker and he has more experience.

“In his freshman year, we had a good group of seniors and he knew his role. Now he has blossomed into a captain and the leader he is. We make decisions together because I trust what he has to say.”

Walling has not made a college selection but wants to compete at the next level.

“Play golf as long as I can and then coach golf,” he said. “That’s how much of an impact coach Unk has had on me because I want to become a coach.”

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@ThisWeekHennen

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