Northumberland and University of Missouri-Kansas City’s Jack Hermeston tells Dean Bailey about life on and off the course, at home and in the US
It’s been an interesting journey since Jack Hermeston shot to fame and into the England Golf system by winning the McGregor Trophy at South Moor in 2011.
Five years on from his breakthrough to the national spotlight, he’s back home from the University of Missouri-Kansas City for the summer holidays, with a different take on his golfing future than the 15-year-old lad who dreamt of a place alongside his heroes Tiger Woods and Rory McIlroy.
“I’ve matured a lot since I went out to the US – as a golfer and as a person,” says Jack, now aged 20, who is taking a break between the qualifying and matchplay rounds of the Northumberland County Championship when we meet at his home club, City of Newcastle.
“Going out to the US for my freshman year was a big shock to the system. I’d just spent the whole summer playing golf, sleeping and not doing a lot else.
“To go from that to living in the States and having a day-to-day schedule of 11-12 hour days made me grow up quickly. It was straight into working out in the morning, going to class, going to practice, doing homework, sleeping and repeating.
“It is tough to get into, but it’s been a big help to me as a golfer and as a person.”
The change in Jack, who appeared in Northern Golfer throughout his teenage years as an England international and county player, is remarkable. The boy who dreamed of making it big on the tour has learned a huge amount since then.
“I’ve been watching a lot of golf on the PGA Tour and the thing I’ve noticed is how many first time winners are in their 30s,” says Jack.
“They’re not all coming out of college and winning, and it’s made me realise it’s a long progression to the top of the game for a lot of players – look at Shane Lowry or Justin Rose. That mentality, keeping improving and working, is the key to making it.
“I’ve matured a lot away from golf too. I was quite happy being looked after at home before. My mum won’t let me get away with that while I’m home now though.”
Jack’s progression, overseen by long-time coach John Harrison and Hexham’s Andy Paisley, has continued into his 20s while watching the growth of his college teammates.
“One of the biggest things I’ve learned is making the most of the time you’ve got. I structure my practice time properly now and make the most of what I’m doing each day.
“Playing with teammates like Antoine Rozner, one of the top 25 amateurs in the world, has been amazing. Watching him improve and become a top player has been really inspiring. He was at a similar stage to me two years ago and he’s left college with the confidence to turn up and know he can win.
“I’m lucky to have a great group of people around me with the likes of John and Andy. They have a huge amount of experience and learning from their experiences is huge.
“Working on mechanics is really important, but I’ve also got to remember not to get bogged down with it like I did a few years ago. Having that double approach – mechanics and mentality – is going to be the key to improving going forward.”
Away from the golf course, college life is suiting Jack with the atmosphere among his teammates and fellow athletes a big positive.
“Apart from the golf and school, I’m spending a lot of time enjoying university life. You have to make the most of it. We get invited to all sorts of things and get to watch the other teams play. The collegiate atmosphere is amazing and the athletes are like a big family.”
Back on the golf course, the last two seasons haven’t been the easiest for Jack as he’s aimed to build consistency in his game.
“There’s been some really big highlights in the last couple of seasons as well as times when I’ve had to work hard on my game,” he admits. “This season, I missed out by a couple of shots in the first two events before I got into it and played well.
“I got some good rounds together before coming home for the Christmas break and since then it’s been firing really well. I led the team in the first event of the spring down in Texas and I was just outside the top 10 in the tournament for my best finish in the US so far.
“I got into a little groove having worked on my putting with Andy and played solid in the first couple of events, making the travelling team and playing well in the tournaments. To see the team win the Western Athletic Conference Championship at the end of the season was a fantastic experience and one of the best parts of the year.
“I’m happy I’ve found some more consistency in my game this year. That’s what I’ve been striving for – the ability to not play my best golf and still break par. That, and winning of course,” he adds.
With tournament golf in the US comes the opportunity to play alongside some of the best young players in the world and Jack has relished the opportunity.
“Being in that kind of field gives you a great look at where your game is compared to the world’s best and what it takes to win the big events as you get into your final two years of college.
“It’s great to see the path out in front of you and to know that playing good golf will see you progress along that path the same way these guys have done.”
When it comes to planning ahead, Jack’s focus is on his time with the UMKC Kangaroos, with his options open to life after graduation.
“Short term, I’ve got a light schedule, as our coach made it clear this our break, but I’ll play the English Amateur and the Big Six before heading back to school.
“I’d like to make all the travelling teams for our events next season, and get my first top 10 in a college event.
“After that, I’m asked a lot about turning pro. At the minute I’m very open to what’s out there. Everyone dreams of it when they’re younger, but when you get out there and compete on bigger and bigger stages you realise what it takes to make it. I’d want my game to improve a great deal if I was to turn pro with the aim of making it onto the main tours after my college golf.
“I’ve got a very safe couple of years with college, where I can play golf and get my qualifications. At the end of those two years I can sit down, assess where I’ve gotten to and set goals from there. It’s a really exciting time right now and there’s no need to plan too far ahead.”
If things do go right, the dream of 15-year-old Jack is still there. “To make it at the top level is what every kid hitting balls and holing putts in the dark on the putting green wants isn’t it?
“So many great players don’t make it to the very top, but climbing the ladder is an amazing experience and one I’m enjoying every minute of.”