0526 Thomas Ponder photo

JAY HARE/DOTHAN EAGLE

Dothan Eagle Golfer of the Year Thomas Ponder of Providence Christian set the AHSAA's season scoring record with a 68.38 stroke average on his way to a third straight individual state championship this season.

>> Background: A Providence Christian senior, Ponder has been golfing since he was 9. The 2017 champion at the Press Thornton Future Masters, he has played on the PCS golf team for head coach Emory Latta for six seasons. He has signed to play college golf at the University of Alabama.

>> 2019 stats: Ponder finished with a 68.38 stroke average, breaking the AHSAA season scoring record held by Robby Shelton. He finished 10 of his 13 rounds under par with nine rounds in the 60s. Only two rounds were above par. He won six tournaments/matches, including the Class 4A state tournament, his third straight individual state title. He became only the fifth player in AHSAA history to win three. He won the state meet with a championship record-tying 11-over-par 133 score. His efforts helped Providence Christian to a second-place state finish, just one stroke behind champion Brooks.

>> Thoughts on being Dothan Eagle Golfer of Year: I am truly honored. I set my goal to win it then I had to play good because of all the good competition in Dothan. All the guys in Dothan – HA and Providence guys – pushed me to be better and always improve. That got me to where I am today.

>> Judging by your scores, it looked like you raised your game. How did that come about? The competition is getting better every year, so you have to evolve to stay ahead of everybody else and not get behind because once you get behind, you have to play catch-up and playing catch-up is not very fun.

>> Did you feel you had to carry the team more this year? Sort of. I just tried to help the team as much as possible. I always look at it in the team aspect. It is all about team, team and team. I just try to play the best golf I could to help the team win. We fell short, but we got there, competed and played pretty well.

>> What did you do in the offseason? I worked on more in-the-moment shots, kind of pressure shots and trying to stimulate those pressure shots on the range like you are on the course. It helps in situations like last hole of the state tournament and you have to make par. You know you have done it already on the range, so it is not really that big of a deal when you get out there. You have been doing it over the course of the last year.

>> Was getting stronger (physically) part of your offseason mindset? I was trying to get bigger, get more productive in the gym. It has helped me seeing some of the pros getting stronger. You don’t realize until you have done it how big of a difference it is in your game and physical abilities on the golf course with endurance. It was a big deal this year for fitness and endurance. I could see a difference in yardage, maybe 10-20 yards (further) depending on the club.

>> Has Alabama talked about your role next season? I am really hoping I can start. I think I can. I think I am good enough. I just have to go out there and compete.

>> Latta on Ponder: He had only two rounds over par and that says a lot – one at 1-over and one at 2-over. Everything else was even par or better. That speaks for his consistency. And then he played lights out. He started off the year shooting 133 at the very first tournament at Steelwood (Country Club) at UMS-Wright’s tournament then he finishes the year at the state tournament with a 133. So he bookended the year with two 11-under par events.

>> Latta on Ponder’s improvement: He worked a lot on his short game and approach shots. He worked to make that precise and some of the scores he had came because of that improved short game.

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