Spending Father’s Day on the golf course is just fine with Charles Crowder, whose son Mason will be teeing off in the 71st Annual Press Thornton Future Masters on Sunday in the 13-14 age division at the Dothan Country Club.
“We’ve been doing this since he was 5 years old — I mean tournament golf,” the father said. “That was kind of our father-son experience to travel all over the southeast. It was always our time together.”
Sometimes, it proved rather nerve-racking.
“I can recognize when his confidence level is starting to drop, and that’s when I start getting a little more anxiety, because I’m like, ‘OK, we’ve got to get over this,’” he said. “But I don’t usually get nervous out there anymore unless those kinds of situations occur, and then he’ll start to pick it back up again and I’m like, ‘OK, let’s just watch some golf.’
“You can tell he’s maturing as a golfer, as a person, as a young man. It’s fun watching him when he’s on. It’s so much fun.”
Mason, a 14-year-old who plays on the golf team at Houston Academy, doesn’t rattle easily.
“Mentally, he’s as confident as any eighth grader that I’ve ever dealt with,” said Future Masters tournament director Kevin Klein, who also coaches the HA team. “Ball striking wise, he can hit it as well as any of them. He’s picked up a lot of distance and doesn’t make many mistakes.
“He’s still working on his short game a little bit. That’s not his strength, but everything else is really strong considering his age.”
He wasn’t always so even-keeled on the golf course.
“When I was younger, I easily got angry when I had a bad hole or two — throwing clubs and all of that stuff,” Mason said. “I haven’t done that in a while, though.”
Breaking down the round helps him to stay focused.
“I just think of three holes at a time,” Mason said. “I’ve got to keep my mentality with those three holes and then just switch over to the next hole. If that hole was bad, then just forget it and switch over to the next one.”
Competing as a member of the Houston Academy wrestling team this past season helped with his mental approach as well.
“It helped my mentality in that I’ve got to keep my focus on what I’m doing at that time,” Mason said. “You can’t wander off or go with something else and think like, ‘Ah, I’m playing terrible’ and stuff like that. You’ve just got to keep going on.”
This past school year, Mason showed early on he could be among the top contributors for the defending state champion Raiders by finishing fourth individually in the 17-team Joe King Memorial Golf Tournament in Auburn. Houston Academy placed fifth in the tournament held in late February of what would be an abbreviated season due to COVID-19.
“The confidence level goes higher since it’s a higher level of competition in the field, and I beat most of them,” Mason said of the tournament. “But I just have to play to my strengths and know my weaknesses.”
It’s the short game that Mason knows he has to show improvement to reach the consistency he’s striving for.
“I need to work on my pitches, my chips, up-and-downs — all that kind of stuff,” he said. “My putting is pretty good right now on these greens. I like fast greens so I can have better touch on them.”
Being able to play the Dothan Country Club layout on a regular basis does have its advantages for the local golfers going into the Future Masters.
“Well, I know where to go on the fairway — the smart choices on the fairway,” he said. “Some holes I hit a 3-wood to make sure I’m in the fairway. Holes that I hit a driver I know I have to hit a good drive right down the middle. If I miss it, I’ve got to play to the smart side of the fairway and just have an easy shot into the green.
“There are disadvantages also. You can raise your confidence level too much and relax too much and don’t play as well.”
Mason finished runner-up in the 10-under division in 2016 and believes he can be a contender this year as play begins Sunday in the 13-14 and 11-12 age divisions. He is scheduled to tee off at 6:48 a.m. for his first of three rounds.
“I know that I want to have a really good chance at this one,” said Mason, who moves into the 15-18 age division next year. “I feel like I have a chance of getting close to the top, or top 10. I’ve been playing really well on this course.”