Not every great athlete starts young.
Occasionally a late bloomer comes along — someone like Barrington senior Brad Powell.
He’s blossoming at the right time this fall as the leader of the boys golf team. Powell is the lone returning state competitor from last year’s squad, which sent six golfers to states and finished sixth in the Class 3A tournament.
“He went from being on a very mature-laden team to a very young team that he’s the captain of,” Barrington coach Mike Kallenbach said. “I was used to having kids driving to practice, now they’re riding bikes.”
Powell, who fired a team-leading 74 during last fall’s sectional and notched a 20th-place finish in the state tournament, didn’t start playing golf competitively until his freshman year in 2010.
“I always played some as a little kid and would visit my grandma once a year in California and play,” he said. “Before high school, though, it was minimal. I’d maybe go out and play once a month with my dad.”
Powell’s rise is even more impressive given his commitment to baseball prior to last golf season. The left-handed hurler loved being in the dugout but ultimately could not tolerate the discomfort in his elbow.
“I loved baseball and got serious with pitching and worked hard at it,” he said. “It just got to the point that I couldn’t take it anymore. They found fractures and tears (in my elbow) and I was done.”
With his baseball career behind him, Powell moved golf — as well as bowling — to the forefront.
“I’ll bowl this winter as an individual because the school doesn’t have a team,” he said. “It’s one of those things that I started when I was 10 or 11 and really liked it and then kept with it and got better and better at it.”
But Powell’s focus right now is on the golf course.
“Last year was the first time I was able to fully dedicate to golf,” he said. “I’ve gotten better at managing myself around the course and avoiding breaking down. It does amaze me just looking all the way back to how far I’ve come.”
Powell’s growth will be critical as he leads Barrington’s young team.
“I don’t think we could’ve found a better captain to lead a group of young guys,” Kallenbach said.
“He’s got a great demeanor and doesn’t lose his cool. He’s very athletic, has great eye and hand coordination and is a great competitor.”
Winter workouts helped Powell polish his game.
“I feel like I’ve improved 100 times with swing changes, because I’m hitting the ball harder and straighter,” he said. “The only that has failed to improve is putting.”
Powell’s college options include Penn State for academics and Florida Atlantic if golf factors into his decision. Visiting Hawaii is also an option because his brother lives there.
“Right now I haven’t talked to too many coaches,” he said. “I’ll talk to my golf instructor and see what happens.”