|Herbie Aikens, 29, of Kingston has spent five years working on the fundamentals of his golf game, and it’s paid off. (David Colt)|
Aikens on his way to US amateur
It wasn’t easy and there were some disappointments along the way, but totally rebuilding his golf swing and becoming mentally tougher has made all the difference for Kingston resident Herbie Aikens.
Aikens stood tall at the United States Amateur Sectional Qualifier July 25 at Blue Hill Country Club in Canton - and not just because he’s 6-foot-6.
The 29-year-old Silver Lake High graduate bested the field with a 3-under-par 141 (70-71) to punch his ticket to Erin Hills Golf Club in Wisconsin, where the US Amateur Championship will be held Aug. 22 through 28.
“A month earlier I had made the round of 16 at the US Amateur Public Links Championship and I felt I had some momentum and could do something special. I feel I’m improving day by day and qualifying for the US Amateur for the first time is very meaningful to me,’’ said Aikens, who plays out of Pinehills Golf Club in Plymouth.
That elation was in sharp contrast to an attempt to qualify four years ago at the Ledges in York, Maine.
When he walked to the tee at the 36th and final hole - a par-5 - Aikens was told by a tournament official that a birdie would make him the winner and that he’d be headed to Pinehurst, N.C., for the Amateur. A par would put him in a playoff.
“I hit my third shot, a wedge 3 feet from the pin, but I was thinking all the wrong things,’’ he recalled. “I got stone hands, made a terrible first putt, and then missed a 6-foot comebacker and didn’t even make the playoff.’’
“Golf can be a lonely sport and I don’t think I ever felt lonelier on the course than that day. It was heartbreaking,’’ said Aikens, who grew up adjacent to the second fairway at Pembroke Country Club, where he was taught the game by his father, Herb Aikens Jr.
“I owe a lot of my success to my parents, who have been there for me through good times and bad,’’ said Aikens, whose father is a recently retired electrician for the Globe and whose mother, Lucille, worked as a registered nurse.
The younger Aikens, founding president of the Rockland-based Lighthouse Electrical Contracting Inc., devotes long hours to his business, which started with a $260 outlet installation nine years ago and now grosses more than $10 million annually.
That means time improving his golf game is of the essence so he makes a yearly pilgrimage in April to the David Leadbetter Golf Academy in Orlando.
“I’ve been taught there for five years by Andrew Park and when I first met him I said I didn’t care if I shot 100 for the next two years, I wanted him to build me a swing and he changed just about everything, from posture, to address, to grip and swing path,’’ said Aikens, a former basketball player whose career was cut short in high school when he suffered a stress fracture in his back.
“I had some fundamental flaws, especially when there was pressure on me. I’d be playing in a local club tournament and I’d be hooking the ball out of bounds at the worst time.’’
Park helped Aikens straighten out the golf fundamentals and a close friend, Susan Ekisian, encouraged Aikens to read books on sports psychology and apply those mental lessons to the course.
“It’s all about confidence. I know I’m a stronger player today than I was four weeks ago,’’ said Aikens, who said his height is an advantage because he can generate power without overswinging and a disadvantage at times for his short game when he “peeks’’ at the ball and moves his head.
Aikens, along with partner and 2011 Massachusetts Amateur champion Ryan Riley (Norton CC) have won an unprecedented three consecutive Massachusetts Four Ball titles, including this year’s tournament held at Cohasset Golf Club and Hatherly Country Club in Scituate.
Aikens clinched the title with a 15-foot putt on the first playoff hole for a birdie 3.
There have been other ups (advancing to the 2010 US Open Sectional Qualifier) and other downs (just missing out on match play at the 2009 US Mid-Amateur when he lost in a playoff), but his enthusiasm and passion for the game have never been stronger.
Albrecht on board US lacrosse squad Braintree’s Sarah Albrecht, the former Northwestern University star, has been named to the 2011-12 US women’s national senior lacrosse team after three days of tryouts last week.
The 36-player roster - chosen from more than 80 candidates - is the foundation of Team USA that will compete in the 2013 Federation of International Lacrosse World Cup in Oshawa, Ontario.
Albrecht, an assistant women’s lacrosse coach at the University of Massachusetts and a recent inductee to the Thayer Academy Hall of Fame, was named to the All-World team in 2009 when Team USA won the World Cup in the Czech Republic.
In that tournament, she scored 14 goals, including three in a round-robin win over Australia and four in a semifinal victory over England.
Albrecht has been a US national team member since graduating in 2006 from Northwestern where she was a two-time All-American and a team captain.
The midfielder helped Northwestern win NCAA titles in 2005 and 2006 (she was all-tournament both years) and ranks fourth in program history in assists, sixth in points, and seventh in goals.
Marvin Pave can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.