Sophomore Griffin Barela and senior Jordan Hahn both ditched baseball by the end of middle school to focus on golf.
Hahn’s route to becoming a Badger started at a young age. Born in Janesville, Wisconsin, Hahn was raised a Badger fan and attended University of Wisconsin golf camps in 8th and 9th grade where his connection with the coaching staff began.
Barela took a different route, filling out a questionnaire sent to him by UW in the summer of his junior year of high school. The first day the NCAA allowed coaches to directly contact recruits, he got a call from Head Coach Michael Burcin, and before he knew it he was on campus for his first visit. After falling in love UW’s campus and its coaching staff, he knew that Madison was the place for him.
Men’s golf: Strong finishes from Jordan Hahn, Griffin Barela bring optimism entering final month of seasonComing off their first team title since 2015 at the Pinetree Intercollegiate, the University of Wisconsin men’s golf team has Read…
The two leaders of the men’s golf team are always down for a little friendly competition. Hahn and Barela like to push each other to their best along with their other teammates. They each have career-low scores in the low 60s — Barela at 62 and Hahn at 61. Hahn’s 61 came in the Illinois State Amateur where he made his second of two hole-in-ones, a remarkable feat.
“For me personally I think it’s always a good goal going into a tournament to go out and beat [Hahn]. I know he is always going to play well,” Barela said. “It is always a good benchmark for me to try and match up to what he is doing.”
It’s that same competitive spirit that helped fuel Barela’s favorite moment as a member of the golf team — last year’s Big Ten Match Play tournament in Florida. Barela said he enjoyed the competitive nature of the match play format and how the course set up for him.
The team won four straight matches at the tournament, taking home third place, but was stripped of a chance to play in the finals due to a tiebreaker. Hahn also appreciated the Big Ten Match Play but said his top moment as a Badger was the squad’s win at the Pinetree Intercollegiate this year.
“Everybody played really well and it was a really cool moment, one that I will remember for a long time,” Hahn said.
Each tournament presents a new opportunity for the two to compete with one another. Before preparation starts for a tournament the team must go through qualifying. Burcin gives automatic spots to two or three players each tournament depending on how they are trending from their previous play, providing an incentive for Hahn and Barela to consistently shoot low scores. Everyone else has the chance to qualify for the remaining spots.
During the winter time, qualifying consists of chipping and putting competitions in the indoor facilities. In the early spring, the team travels to St. Louis or Dallas to play for the final spots until the weather in Madison cooperates. If there are three remaining spots, it comes down to the two lowest scores and then Burcin decides the final player. Preparation for these tournaments is driven toward practice involving potential situations they may face. This includes playing in various weather conditions and strategizing ways to play a new course.
The thorough, rigorous system set forth by Burcin certainly plays into both Hahn’s and Barela’s competitive approach. But golf is as much a game of mental strength as it is of skill. All amateurs who play golf know it is a difficult, but rewarding, game, but Hahn said the hardest part of the sport for him is the mental game that comes along with it.
“At the end of the day it comes down to the mentality of knowing you are going to be the best player you can be,” Hahn said. “It boils down to the mentality of being positive week in and week out regardless of how you are hitting it.”
Barela notes that the hardest part of the game to him is adapting to each round and knowing that no two rounds will be the same.
“One day you are hitting the ball great and putting it poorly, and the next you may do the exact opposite,” Barela said.
He recognized the importance of keeping your mindset at a steady, calm level when you are struggling.
Having finished top 25 in all but one event this season, Hahn’s key to success all comes down to consistency. Like Barela, he highlights that dependable play comes down to having a strong mental outlook.
“The key to being consistent is more mental than anything,” Hahn said. “You can hit it terrible one week but if you have a good attitude you are going to hit in the hole in as few of shots possible.”
Always knowing he has the chance to win when he tees it up has proven to be successful for Hahn. In his final season, he is still seeking an elusive Big Ten championship.
To quell their mental blocks, Hahn and Barela both have their own routines when warming up that they repeat every time they compete. Hahn’s is more traditional.
“My superstition is that I use the same ball marker every time I play,” Hahn said. “It is the only ball marker I carry in my bag.”
He keeps it in the same pocket so if it is ever gone he knows someone is messing with him. Barela said he keeps his tees, gloves and yardage book all in the same pocket for every round.
The future is bright for these Badgers. As Hahn, a senior, approaches the real world, he plans to turn professional in the fall and leave behind a legacy of having the third-best scoring average in UW history.
Barela, now a sophomore, engraved himself in the UW history books last year when he finished with the third-lowest scoring average for a freshman in program history. In regards to his future, he hopes to become more consistent and limit poor results. He will consider his career a success if he can continue to improve bad scores while maintaining a positive attitude. He hopes to put together a year like Hahn in his junior or senior year.
For all their differences, Hahn and Barela share much in common. They are both hungry, talented golfers who push one another to be as good as possible. They approach the game professionally and buy into Burcin’s system. They are honest about their struggles with golf’s mental tolls and are both slightly superstitious. It’s safe to say that as Hahn leaves behind his Wisconsin legacy in the coming weeks, Barela will be there to pick up where he leaves off.