Hornberger relishes Golfer of Year status
BY JASON FULGINITI, Sports Staff
To get an idea of the kind of year 2012 was for Craig Hornberger on the golf course, you need only look at a two-week stretch this past summer.
June 21 -- Hornberger, then a senior-to-be at Manheim Township, fires 3-under 68 at Concord Country Club to tie for medalist honors at a Pennsylvania Amateur qualifier.
June 22 -- Hornberger finishes second at the Lancaster County Junior Golf Tour event at Four Seasons in the morning, before posting an opening-round 72 later in the day at Conestoga Country Club to move into contention at the Lanco Amateur.
June 23 -- Shoots final-round 70 at Conestoga to finish tied for third in Lanco Amateur.
June 24 -- Qualifies for Junior World Championships.
June 27 -- Wins the LCJGT Major Championship (formerly the Lanco Junior).
July 2-3 -- Posts rounds of 73-79 at Hershey Country Club to finish tied for 14th at the Pennsylvania Junior Championship.
Most players would be happy to accomplish that much in an entire year.
Hornberger did it in 13 days.
And he was only warming up.
After capping a banner year with his individual victory at the PIAA Class AAA Championships last fall, Hornberger was awarded the H.H. Billy Haverstick Award as the Lancaster County Golf Association's 2012 Golfer of the Year.
"It made me feel good," Hornberger said. "It really ranks up there in stuff I've done. It would be different if it was a junior (award) because there's only so many junior (golfers), but there's thousands of Lancaster amateur golfers. And to be called the top player of the year when, at the time, I'm only 17, it felt pretty special."
Fact is, Hornberger, who turned 18 in December, is the second-youngest player to win the Haverstick Award since Lanco started presenting it in 1995.
The youngest was Jarred Texter, who was just 16 when he earned the honor in 2002.
"I don't think you ever see (a season like last year) coming," Hornberger said. "But this is what we practice and work for."
While he didn't win a Lanco event last summer, no one had a better overall season than Hornberger, whose 959 points in the season-long War of the Roses points race were 169 better than runner-up Gregg Hostetter (790).
That he was a junior golfer at the time made it all the more impressive.
"I think (the key) really was my mental game," said Hornberger, who has verbally committed to accept a hefty golf scholarship at Campbell University in North Carolina this fall. "I didn't get down on myself and I didn't get real mad or anything, which kept me away from the big numbers (during rounds)."
The vast amount of time he devotes to the game might have helped a little too.
A member at both Lancaster Country Club and Meadia Heights, Hornberger said he usually tries to either play or practice three or four times a week starting in April.
And once school ends ...
"I'm pretty much out there every day," he said. "I'll go out (to LCC) sometimes at 8:00 in the morning and sometimes I won't come home until dark. Just depends on the day."
The result was a six-month stretch from May-October that was riddled with highlights.
In addition to his aforementioned tie for third in the Lanco Amateur -- the county's most sought-after event -- Hornberger also finished fifth in the Lanco Open, tied for eighth in the Lanco Scramble (with Mike Burkhart) and advanced to the final of the Lanco Match Play before losing a 3 and 1 decision to reigning Lanco Amateur champ Zak Drescher.
All of which led to his earning a spot on Lancaster's War of the Roses team.
"I think the biggest thing I learned is that every shot counts," Hornberger said. "Every little two-foot putt … you have to take your time on everything and think through it, because if you don't you can regret it in the end. It could mean the difference between first and second, or losing by two or one."
Lessons that were no doubt developed by time spent last summer on the LCJGT, where he never finished worse than third in six starts. In addition to his win at the tour's Major, he finished second four times.
Sprinkled around those LCJGT finishes were a tie for second in the Pennsylvania Better Ball (with former Township teammate JD Dornes), a tie for third at the prestigious Jake Gittlen Memorial in Harrisburg, his aforementioned tie for 14th at the state junior and a tie for 30th at the Pennsylvania Amateur.
None of which, though, was enough to satisfy Hornberger's competitive appetite.
"I'm somewhat of a perfectionist," said Hornberger, whose ultimate goal is to play professionally after college. "And this summer I didn't play too well, but I played well enough to get the scholarship and finished off the year well."
An understatement, for sure.
Fashioning a 72.1 stroke average during the high school season, which was second-best in the Lancaster-Lebanon League, Hornberger helped Township capture its eighth Section One title before finishing tied for sixth at the L-L Championships, where the Blue Streaks captured the team crown for the sixth time in the last seven years.
From there, Hornberger put it in overdrive.
Posting rounds of 71-70 at Briarwood East in York, Hornberger, the two-time defending champion, won the District Three Class AAA title by two shots, making him the first player in the 77-year history of the event to win district gold three times.
He followed that by firing 3-under 69 at Golden Oaks Golf Club in Fleetwood to capture the PIAA Class AAA Regional title, before finishing the season off with the highlight of his young career.
Posting rounds of 73-70 at Heritage Hills Golf Resort in York, Hornberger won the PIAA Class AAA individual title by one stroke, making him just the sixth Lancaster County player to win state gold and the first Township player since a certain guy named Jim Furyk accomplished the feat in 1987.
A day after winning his individual state title, Hornberger returned to Heritage Hills to post the low round of the day -- 3-under 69 -- which propelled Township to its second consecutive PIAA team title.
"The school season I'm pretty happy with, other than leagues," Hornberger said. "But it's OK because I played better in the more important ones. And winning states really topped it all off. So I'd say, overall, I'm pretty happy with the year."
And happy to be wearing the reigning Golfer of the Year label as this summer's Lanco season -- his last before heading off to college -- rolls around.
"I want to go out this year and try to win a bunch of (Lanco events)," Hornberger said.
Not exactly good news for the competition, perhaps.