ATHENS, Ohio - Throughout the 2013 men's golf spring season, OhioBobcats.com will sit down with members of the men's golf team to discuss their experiences on the links and some of the professional golfers they've looked up to over their the course of their careers.
First up is senior Byron Firestone (Canton, Ohio) who's leading the Bobcats this season in stroke average per round. He is coming off a top-20 finish at the Pinehurst Intercollegiate March 10-12.
Why did you choose Ohio? "I had a good senior year playing at Jackson High School and Coach Cooley reached out to me. The biggest thing that attracted me to Ohio was the campus. I visited Kent State and Akron, but this campus was just beautiful and everyone at Ohio was great. The academics here with the College of Business are excellent as well. To be able to play golf on top of that, it's just been a great experience."
What are your future goals? "My major is finance and I just accepted a job with American Income Life as a financial representative. We work with credit and labor unions and I set up meetings with clients to propose financial plans for them. I'd like to still play golf and turn pro within a year or two and be able to play a couple of events. The job is pretty lenient with my time which is a benefit. But it's going to be business first, golf second."
What is your proudest moment competing at Ohio? "I finished second at Dayton this fall, which was a great learning experience. I went into the final three holes with a two-shot lead. Then there was a rain delay and I finished double bogey, bogey, par. I lost the tournament by one stroke. So it was a great finish and my best so far, but it was disappointing. A lot of golf is nerves, and when you get into situations you're not comfortable with, it can be difficult. It was something to learn from for sure."
What professional golfer would you compare your game to? I'd love to say Tiger [laughs], but my game is probably a lot more like Justin Leonard. He's my favorite golfer. He's a short guy and hits the ball only 260 or 270. I don't hit it very far so I'm more down the middle, on the green and two putt. I'm not the fancy long drive guy or anything like that.
What's the craziest shot you've ever hit? "This year at the Wexford Intercollegiate, we got to play with the members in the practice round. I was playing in a shamble format with [senior] Michael Lamping where you use the best drive. As a team we had no good options, so we took mine which was in the trees. Michael didn't think I had a shot, but I pulled out a wedge and hit it under some trees and then over some trees through a little gap, and it rolled to within two feet. I made a birdie - it's probably the best shot I've hit in college golf."
What's your favorite course that you've played? "Pinehurst No. 2 [in North Carolina]. We've played there the past three years. I got to play it before they renovated it, and after the renovations, to see the change is amazing. And the history there - with Payne Stewart [winning the 1999 U.S. Open] - you can't play that course without thinking of what's happened. There's some great memories."
What course would you most like to play? "Pebble Beach, because I've never played a course on the ocean where the ocean actually comes into play. I'd really like to play No. 18. That's one of my favorite holes, view-wise, and I haven't been able to play it yet. Hopefully someday."
If you could play in a foursome with any three golfers, who would you choose? "Tiger Woods would be the first, just to see what it is in his game that separates him from everyone else, while watching and learning from him. Gary Player, because he's built like me and small. And you can't pass up playing with Jack Nicklaus."