There’s a saying that rings in Carson Bacha’s head whenever he wonders if he’s playing too much golf.
“In order to get better, you have to put the time in the dirt,” Bacha said.
That motto is something that his parents, as well as his friends and coaches, have instilled in him since he was a boy.
Now a rising senior at Central York High School, the 17-year-old standout continues to try to live by those words every day as he looks to continue his progression in the game.
“I am usually at the (golf) course at least once a day,” he said. “Sometimes I’ll give myself a day or two to unwind and get mentally refreshed, but there aren’t any shortcuts. You have to put that time in the dirt.”
All of that considerable time that Bacha has put into improving his game is showing promising signs already this summer. Even after a rough start to 2019, by his standards, Bacha has been playing some of his best golf of late.
Qualifying for U.S. Amateur: His most impressive effort to date came earlier this week when Bacha participated in an United States Amateur Championship qualifying event at West Shore Country Club in Camp Hill. The University of Auburn recruit completed what became a two-day, 36-hole event with a 5-under-par 139 total. He had rounds of 70 and 69.
In a field of more than 50 competitors, that result earned Bacha a tie for first place with Ryan Smith. More importantly, it qualified the Panther standout for a spot in the U.S. Amateur next month at storied Pinehurst Country Club in North Carolina, which has hosted three U.S. Opens since 1999.
The U.S. Amateur, set for Aug. 12-18, will feature a two-day, 36-hole stroke-play qualifier that narrows the field down to a 64-person match-play format. The U.S. Amateur is generally regarded as the most prestigious amateur golf tournament in the nation.
Unusual side story: Bacha’s impressive accomplishment also made for a bit of a unusual side story. Earlier this summer he failed to qualify for the U.S. Junior Amateur, an event for those who are 18 years and younger.
“Yeah, that’s kind of ironic,” he said. “Who would have thought that I would have qualified for the U.S. Am before the U.S. Junior Am? I still haven’t made the U.S. Junior in any of my other years either.”
Busy month ahead: The good news is that Bacha will still have one last chance to do that next year. Before that, however, Bacha is getting ready for what figures to be a very busy month of August. In addition to the U.S. Amateur, Bacha will compete in the Junior PGA Championship and one or two other invitational tournaments before the start of the high school season.
Bacha is hoping to culminate his terrific high school career, which included a District 3 Class 3-A individual title, with one last prize that has eluded him — an individual 3-A state title. Bacha finished 12th in the PIAA event last season as a junior.
“It figures to be jam-packed,” Bacha joked about his schedule. “It will definitely be a busy month to month and a half for sure.”
Loves to play: That heavy workload, however, isn’t uncommon for Bacha. He attends Central York for only a semester in person before he moves to Florida after the holidays to continue to work on his golf game.
“I’m fortunate that Central is flexible enough to allow me to complete the second half of my year online,” he said. “So I spend the first half of my year in a six-person household with my parents and then I spend my winters in Florida with my golf coach, Ray Carazo, and his wife. It goes from real crazy to real quiet.”
The benefit of doing so has become crystal clear for Bacha.
“You hear a lot that the college coaches get a little worried when they’re dealing with a kid who lives up North,” he said. “Because they’re not sure how a player who is used to throwing away their clubs for three to four months a year will react when they start playing all year around.”
Playing all year has been something that Bacha has been doing for several years. And, if he has his way, it will become his way of life. He hopes to eventually become a professional player.
“I just love golf so much,” he said. “My dream has always been to make it as a pro and (playing golf) isn’t something that I feel is work. It’s just something that I really love to do.”
Reach Ryan Vandersloot at firstname.lastname@example.org.