Teenage golfer prepares to tee off
Mount Vernon golfer Spencer Hughes is the Park National Bank Athlete of the Month for September. Credit: Bill Davis

Knox Pages will select one student athlete to be recognized as the Park National Bank Athlete of the Month during the 2023-24 school year. Nominations for Athlete of the Month are accepted from Athletic Directors and Coaches, but are ultimately chosen by Knox Pages and are based on the student’s exceptional athletic performance, effective teamwork and achievement in their communities. Park National Bank is proud to support this initiative and is giving the athletic department of each school $1,000 in honor of each athlete chosen.

MOUNT VERNON — Spencer Hughes stood at the practice green with his golf bag resting to his right.

He and his teammates on the Mount Vernon golf team were waiting for coach Anthony Savage to begin practice. Hughes was hoping to get a few holes in before the torrential rain that struck Columbus slid its way to Vernon View Golf Course.

The team has no more matches for the season. They lost in their bid to advance to Division I Districts on Tuesday. But Hughes, the lone senior, is playing on, having advanced as one of three top individuals from Tuesday’s sectional meet.

Hughes laughed at a joke told by a teammate. There is no jealousy here. They’re still a team, after all, even if only one golfer still has further to go in the 2023 season.

Hughes was in good spirits; only moments before, he had learned he was named by Knox Pages as the Park National Bank Athlete of the Month for September.

“It’s nice. It’s been a big month for me,” Hughes told Knox Pages. “I had two main goals this season, including getting to districts, so it’s nice to accomplish those. It’s always nice to get some recognition for it.”

It was indeed a big month for the senior. Hughes led the Yellow Jackets through a busy calendar of events to a fourth-place finish in the Ohio Cardinal Conference. Hughes earned medalist honors at the final OCC tournament and was named OCC co-Player of the Year.

Which brings us to Tuesday, when Hughes led his team in the sectional tournament at Turnberry in Granville. Mount Vernon is a young team, but Hughes held his poise throughout the day — even as a poor start to the round threatened to bring the season to a premature halt.

Through the first seven holes, Hughes was at plus-7 and nowhere near the leaderboard.

“My coach came up to me and saw I was struggling. And all he said to me was ‘Just play for yourself. Just be Spencer,’” Hughes said. “So I told one of the kids in my group that I wasn’t out of this. I was going to try to get my score as low as I could.

“It was a shift from saying ‘Man, this [stinks] as a way to end my senior season’ to ‘Hey, let’s finish strong and make myself proud, and leaving it all out there. Especially if this is the last time I tee off as a high-schooler.”

In golf, moments happen that can send a round downhill and end any chance of a good score. But, rarely, the opposite happens, and a great moment can salvage a round.

For Hughes it happened on the 17th green (he started on the back nine). The senior sank a 20-foot putt to save par. Just like that, his whole outlook on the day changed.

Hughes went on to shoot 3-under for the rest of the round and finish tied for eighth overall. More importantly, he was tied with two other golfers for third place among those who did not qualify as a team.

A three-man playoff was needed to determine who would advance to Districts. In the third playoff hole, Hughes hit his third straight par to be the final survivor.

He may be the only Mount Vernon golfer advancing, but he isn’t done being a leader. Hughes was still seen at a recent practice mentoring his teammates, helping them improve his game.

“He puts in a lot of time to help the younger players,” Mount Vernon coach Anthony Savage told Knox Pages. “He always puts in the most time in practice and can always be counted on.

“He consistently leads the younger players, works with them on their homework, acts as an extension of the coach during practice or on the bus.”

Away from the course, Hughes spends his time in the classroom. He takes several AP courses and classes that earn college credit through Kenyon and Central Ohio Technical College.

Although he hasn’t decided on a college, Hughes knows he wants to go into engineering or computer software.

Hughes spent the summer volunteering with the Ohio Fallen Heroes Memorial golf events and keeping involved in Kenyon campus events.

Hughes will participate in the Division I district tournament at Apple Valley on Tuesday. His tee time has not been announced as of press time. In the meantime, he’ll be seen on the course at Vernon View. When he’s not studying, that is.

“I’m in school, and I’m on the course,” Hughes said. “That is my life.”

Bill Davis was born and raised in California. He is a graduate of Ball State with a degree in Journalism. The former sports editor of the Mount Vernon News, his three children attend Mount Vernon City...