VVS senior Decker hopes to ace state golf tourney

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VERONA — Before Caleb Decker heads off to play college golf, the Vernon-Verona-Sherrill senior will compete in the state tournament beginning Sunday.

Decker has been playing on the Red Devils’ varsity team since seventh grade. Though it’s his only scholastic sport, he also competes in golf tournaments outside of school.

“I got into golf through intramurals in sixth grade,” said Decker. “In seventh grade I worked my way up” the varsity starting lineup. “I started playing in local tournaments,” adding more competitive events in eighth and ninth grades.

On May 23, Decker participated in the local qualifier at Cedar Lake Country Club. He fired a 79, which advanced him to the Section III state qualifying tournament, a two-day event. On May 25, he shot an 80 at Skenandoa Country Club, just getting in under the cut of 81. Two days later he shot a 76 at the same course, for a combined score of 156, again making the cut (158).

He will represent Section III at states at Mark Twain Country Club in Elmira on Sunday and Monday.

Here are five questions he answered for the Daily Sentinel:

What’s the toughest course you’ve played? What course have you liked playing the most? 

The toughest: Rome Country Club, “because it’s always wet. And I’ve played well there this year. I shot one-under.” It was the site of his first varsity match. “I remember I didn’t play well.” It was also the site of his last varsity match. “I do like the course. I played it this year and enjoyed it.”

His favorite is the club where he’s a member: Seven Oaks in Hamilton. “The layout is really nice. The greens are big, a little undulated. The rough is thick. If you’re having a bad day it will make you work for a score. It’s not a course where you can spray it and have success. You have to know where to hit it and where to miss it.” He said he also likes the courses at Turning Stone, especially Kaluhyat.

What are your primary personal goal and team goal for the season?

“As a team our goal was to win the Pioneer Tri-Valley League championship, which we did. That was great.” Decker has been a part of multiple Pioneer titles.

“My personal goal was to go to states. That was my end goal. The past two years’ states was canceled.” He added, “Section III has always been loaded with golfers. I consider myself one of the top golfers in the Section, but if you have one bad day someone else will take advantage and take your place.”

What is an important part of your game that you’ve worked to improve in recent years?

“I’d say putting. Putting has always been my downfall. I’m a player who hits a lot of greens,” he said. “I’ve put in a lot of work and I’ve seen some results.” He won the Onondaga Invitational at Onondaga Golf & Country Club with good putting, he noted, shooting even par in a field full of other players who made states. “That was probably my first competitve tournament of the year.”

What are your college plans academically and athletically?

Decker is headed to St. Bonaventure University next fall, where he’ll play Division I golf and major in business management. “My personal instructor, Marty Nowicki, went there. He pointed the coach out to me a couple years ago.” He continued, “I really liked the golf team and the schedule. Everyone said to go down south to play golf, but St. Bonaventure does travel and goes south.”

Is there an athlete you look up to or admire? What do you like about them?

“Derek Jeter, actually. I used to play baseball. I still love the New York Yankees. I look up to him. I read his biography. He’s a great person.”

Decker said he gets compliments on “being a good person, not just on my golf skills. You’re always best to be a good person, be honest, get your school work done.” Also, Jeter was known as “a leader, the captain of the team. Always somebody to look up to. That’s what I want for me.”

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