Big things expected for the Redhawk’s talented senior.
By Jonah L. Rosenblum; Pioneer Press
Whispers have followed Brian Ohr at times.
How did the then-Glenbrook North golfer feel about being teammates with Nick Hardy, one of the top high school golfers in the state and country? Did it bother him when Hardy finished ahead of him?
How did Ohr, a Miami (Ohio) golfer, feel about sitting on the bench while Highland Park golfer Patrick Flavin found more immediate success with the RedHawks?
People would ask Ohr: “It’s hard to see that, isn’t it?”
Surely, it bothered Ohr. Right?
Except the only thing is while everyone kept whispering, Ohr kept smiling.
“He’s very, very nice,” said Hardy, who now golfs at Illinois. “You won’t run into much nicer kids.”
Ohr and Hardy were back on the course together last week at the Illinois State Amateur at St. Charles Country Club. Ohr shot 17-under at the four-round tournament to tie for third.
Ohr, known for his laid-back demeanor, said his smile stems from his father, who also is named Brian Ohr.
Ohr’s father isn’t the golfer his son is, so he had little advice to offer as it related to his golf game.
While other parents told their children to use a different club, Ohr’s father simply told him to smile.
“That’s something he really hammered into my head since the young age of 12 or 13,” Ohr said.
For Ohr, nothing could be more important.
“The game of golf is so unique. It’s not about being physically fit or being the biggest guy or strongest guy. It’s about who is mentally toughest,” said Ohr, who won the Class 3A individual state golf title in 2013 as a senior with the Spartans. “The mental part of the game is so big and the mind can do a lot of great things when you force it to think positive and have a positive outlook.”
Never did Ohr have to be mentally tougher than his freshman year at Miami (Ohio), when his coach asked him to redshirt. Making matters worse, Flavin played a key role for Miami (Ohio) that year, earning Mid-American Conference Freshman of the Year and All-MAC First Team honors. Both Flavin and Ohr considered themselves comparable. For one to star and one to sit wasn’t easy.
“It was one of my hardest years in my golf career,” Ohr said. “Miami was a school where I thought I could play right away, right off the bat, which is one of the reasons why I chose it.”
When Ohr returned to the course, success didn’t come right away. Early in the 2015-16 season, Ohr was mired in the mid-seventies. At the Colleton River Collegiate, he posted three rounds of 81 or higher, finishing tied for 79th and 27 strokes behind Flavin, who tied for fourth.
“What really impressed me about Brian is that even though he wasn’t putting up results in the tournaments, he still had that air of confidence. He continued to work hard, even through struggles,” Flavin said. “Honestly, it was really impressive and eye-opening for me.”
Instead of letting golf drive them apart, Flavin and Ohr became closer. When Ohr redshirted last season, Flavin was one of his greatest cheerleaders.
“It could’ve been awkward and there could’ve been weird stages, but he just continued to be that guy,” Flavin said.
It’s just as his father would have told him. Stay nice. Keep smiling. Keep golfing.
Sure enough, Ohr began to excel.
At the Hoosier Collegiate, he posted a 76 and a 72 to tie for 23rd, eight strokes behind Flavin, the first-place finisher. At the Boilermaker Invitational he posted a 223, which tied for the second-best score on the team. That set the stage for Ohr’s strong showing at the MAC Championship.
“Going into the MAC, my confidence level was at an all-time high for my college career,” Ohr said.
That led to his best round of the year, a 68 in the second round, and he shot a 74 or better in all four rounds to tie for fifth. It was, by far, Ohr’s best collegiate performance.
That success translated to the Illinois State Amateur, which Flavin, Hardy and Ohr all described as a joyful reunion. Hardy won the tournament by finishing with a 28-under 260, breaking the tournament record for lowest score and best score relative to par. After a first-round 63, Ohr led the entire tournament. He also led after 36 holes, but was overtaken by Hardy in the third round.
“Ever since that (Illinois) state championship a couple years ago, I was kind of out of the radar. People haven’t seen me that much,” Ohr said. “It was nice to make somewhat of a statement like that.”
While Ohr’s ascent this spring and summer may have taken some by surprise, it came as no surprise to those closest to him. Hardy said that Ohr has always had star potential due to his “great short game” and superb mental strength.
“Brian’s game has definitely taken off this summer,” Hardy said.
“He could be so good,” Flavin added. “His potential is exponential. He could go as far as he wants to.”
Jonah L. Rosenblum is a freelance reporter for Pioneer Press.