Eastwood junior golfer Steve Bruning paid attention to teammate Tommy Blanchard a year ago, when Blanchard became the inaugural Northern Buckeye Conference’s boys Player of the Year.
“I learned patience, really, and not to get down after a bad hole,” Bruning said. “He was really good about that. I know he worked on his game a lot, which you need.”
Bruning, an honorable mention All-NBC performer last season, worked a lot this summer, too, taking lessons from Claire Batista, the head professional at The Legacy in Ottawa Lake, Mich.
“She used to coach at the University of Toledo,” Bruning said. “I heard good things about her and thought I would try it. She changed my swing a little bit and it was all for the good. My scores started dropping, so I kept going back. I would go up there in the summer every other week.”
Earning this year’s NBC Player of the Year honor, Bruning said, “wasn’t a main priority,” but it seems to be a rite of passage for Eastwood golfers. Last week, Bruning earned that honor to become the eighth Eastwood golfer to earn Player of the Year honors in the Suburban Lakes League/NBC since the SLL started handing out that award in 1994.
Genoa’s Chris Varga won the inaugural SLL Player of the Year award in ‘94. Eastwood, however, has won the award 10 times – former Eagles players Josh Jaworski (1998, ’99) and Kyle Brossia (2002, ‘03) both won the award twice.
“At the beginning of this year I figured I could hopefully get first team,” Bruning said. “As the NBC touraments went on, I thought I had a shot at (Player of the Year) if I kept playing well. I shot good and it just happened.”
Mike Gardner, who is in his 41st season as Eastwood’s coach, said Bruning has come a long way since his freshman year. Bruning had a 40.2 scoring average per nine holes during the regular season.
“That’s a solid average for the courses we play,” Gardner said. “Last year he was at 43.1 and the year before that as a freshman he was 47.7, and he lettered that year. He started out as a jayvee player as a freshman and was a nice jayvee player. We were struggling a little for scores, so he got put into the varsity lineup halfway through the season. He shot a 55 and we thought he may not be ready yet. I put him in our second (SLL) shootout and he was our low scorer, and he was a fixture in the lineup the rest of the year.
“He made the most of his opportunity and he’s been improving. Hopefully, he’ll improve even more for next year.”
Gardner said he appreciated Bruning’s consistency throughout the season. In eight tournaments, including last Thursday’s NBC tournament at Green Hills in Clyde, Bruning had a low score of 77 and a high score of 83. In the nine-hole NBC shootouts, Bruning shot 41, 40, 39 and 39 to finish first overall twice, fifth and sixth.
“I was happy with it,” Bruning said of his junior season. “I was looking for an average under 40, and I’m right around there. I was just being consistent and not getting big numbers, like doubles (bogeys) and triples.”
The NBC has a scoring system to help determine its player of the year, and Bruning finished with a conference-high 229 points. Woodmore senior Ty Burner was second with 227.5, and senior teammate Matt Zatko was third with 223.5.
Bruning was the medalist at last week’s NBC tournament, shooting a 7-over 78. Mike Krantz of Lake was second with a 79.
“I said when we started this year I didn’t expect to have anybody to nominate for player of the year,” Gardner said. “Steve had a pretty good summer. He took some extra lessons and worked hard, and he became a better player than last year. He’s had an even better year than I expected.”
Eastwood golfer Steven Bruning. (Press photo by John Pollock/www.pollock.smugmug.com)