There’s no secret as to why Macon Larson excels on the golf course. At least, according to his coaches.
Mitchell High School boys golf co-head coach Mark Horan and Dakota Wesleyan University golf coach Russell Pick, who is also Larson's private swing coach, identify this trait as the most integral in Larson’s skill set. And, as one might expect from someone identifiable by their poise, the MHS senior knows how to use it to his advantage.
“Confidence is absolutely the key to my golf game,” Larson said. “I feel like for anyone to be good at golf, you have to be confident to step up and hit shots and make putts, especially when you’re trying to win a tournament, because every little shot matters. My confidence comes from hitting so many golf balls and knowing I hit the same shot I’m about to take while I was on the range the other day, so I can do it again right now.”
According to Pick, Larson’s approach and self-awareness as it pertains to golf would be impressive for even the most seasoned high school-age players, but golf experience is perhaps the one thing Larson lacks.
The 2020 season was Larson’s first as a competitive golfer, having only picked up the sport casually the year prior. So when the newcomer, then a junior, placed 12th overall at last year’s Class AA state golf championship after shooting a two-day total of 158, it turned some heads.
Larson’s relative lack of experience should have been a disadvantage, according to Pick, which made a top-15 finish all the more impressive.
“When it comes to golf, experience makes a big difference, especially when you’re playing against good competition like he is at the Class AA level,” Pick explained. “What’s so special about [Larson’s placing] is that for most kids it would take a few years of getting used to competitive play. Macon went out and, in his first season competitively, finished 12th at the state tournament. That is unheard of.”
It was only about 15 months ago that Larson had a breakthrough that pushed him to pursue competitive golf. On a family trip, Larson and his father, Scott, were playing golf in Idaho and something just clicked.
“That was the first time I got into the 70s,” Larson said. “I still don’t know what happened on that trip, but then once I got home I started steadily improving.”
It was shortly thereafter that Larson reached out to Pick through Ryker Kreutzfeldt, Mitchell’s other co-head coach, and started private lessons, which Larson credits with helping him improve at such a rapid pace.
The individual nature of golf and built-in competition also appealed to Larson, who is also a varsity tennis player.
“Even if it’s a field of 100 players or you’re playing alone on the weekend, you can compete against yourself, so there’s always a competition,” Larson said. “You can’t make excuses, you can’t say it was anyone else’s fault. It’s all on you. Not all sports are like that.”
Knowing how far he’s come and looking back on his first golf-related memory, Larson can only laugh.
“I remember playing golf in Mexico when I was around 12 years old,” Larson recalled. “Before I got really into playing golf every day, I used to be a little hothead. I’d just get super frustrated because I shot really bad and would shank balls and wouldn’t enjoy myself at all.”
When Horan compares Larson at the beginning of last season to the golfer he is now, there's one prevailing sentiment.
“What he’s done is really impressive,” Horan said. “He’s a kid that eats, sleeps and drinks golf. Every day, all summer long he was playing. He played in some of the summer tours. He’s just out at the course constantly. I’m most impressed by his tremendous energy and ability to work constantly at his game. I’ll obviously follow his college career and take a certain amount of pride and fondness that I was able to work with him.”
Having committed to play golf collegiately at DWU in late August, Larson, who anticipates studying business and psychology, will continue to grow his game under Pick’s tutelage, which is something the DWU coach has thought about for some time.
“Pretty much right away, I knew Macon had a special talent,” Pick said. “When I’d watch him swing and practice, I’d go over things with him afterward and by the very next lesson, he would have whatever we went over down. Pretty much everything he displayed, I knew right away he’s a kid I would be interested in signing someday.”
Pick also isn’t shy about the expectations surrounding Larson’s future as a collegiate golfer.
“I fully expect Macon to come in as a freshman and make the traveling team, which is my top five that I bring to tournaments,” Pick said. “Looking at what he’s been able to achieve so far, the sky’s the limit for him. He’s definitely someone who could be a force in the GPAC and I’m just really excited to get to work with him and see what he can do.”
But before he moves on to represent the Tigers, there’s still some goals Larson wants to achieve as a Kernel. Last year’s 12th place finish set a mark to shoot for this year, but Larson feels he is prepared to do much better this time around.
“I can hit it farther, I hit my irons better, my wedges have gotten a lot better and I’m making more putts this year,” Larson said. “I think every part of my game has gotten better.”
It should come then as no surprise what Larson is chasing over the coming weeks.
“My expectations are to win ESD and state,” Larson said. “If not win, I just want to give myself a shot. It’s tough in golf to put numbers on things because then you start overthinking and you can't play loose, so I’d say a goal is to play well and put myself in spots to win.”