Haley Gladden’s love of golf is a sweet story. At least it began that way.

“I started playing golf consistently in seventh or eighth grade,” Gladden said. “My parents used candy as an incentive to play. At first I would play golf so I could get some candy at the halfway house. Then I actually started liking the sport and wanted to keep playing and get better.”

For those unfamiliar with the glossary of golf, a halfway house is located on golf courses between the first nine holes and the back nine. It’s essentially a pit stop for golfers to recharge while grabbing snacks, sweets and refreshments.

Since her introduction to the game, Gladden has blossomed into the Huskies’ best player with an assortment of sweet swings.

Gladden has a strong short game, and she chips and drives the ball well. Her mentality complements her skills.

“I just try to keep a positive attitude,” she said. “I don’t count my score until the end so it doesn’t mess with my head. Golf is like 90 percent mental and 10 percent physical.”

Unfortunately, difficult weather conditions at the state finals negatively impacted her game.

“The conditions definitely affected my strategy,” Gladden said. “I’m not used to playing in snow and freezing rain. I was really cold like everybody else. It was hard to fine tune my swings.

“I just decided to try and get the ball as close to the hole as possible. My goal was to get through the round and stay positive. That’s all I could do.”

Gladden carded an 88 (16-over) at the state finals in Decatur, Illinois. Teammate Ella Haas finished with a score of 102 (30-over).

At the Conant Sectional, Gladden shot 84 and she was the medalist (87) at the Payton Regional as OPRF won the team title as well. She was also the Huskies’ team captain and an all-conference golfer in the West Suburban Silver this fall.

“Haley led by example and was the team’s top scorer,” OPRF coach Matt McMurray said. “She is a hard worker and put a lot of time and effort into her game over the summer.”

Since she missed the state cut by four strokes in 2017, the affable Gladden was the team’s sentimental favorite to make state this year.

Gladden’s equanimity has benefitted her as both a golfer and honors student. In college, she plans to play golf for fun and focus on her academics.

“I was considering playing college golf,” Gladden said. “It’s hard to juggle golf and academics, so I think I’ll just play golf for leisure. I’m interested in schools in the South like Richmond and Wake Forest.

Gladden mentioned pre-med, biology or health as possible fields of study. Currently, she’s taking a heavy course load of AP classes at OPRF.

Although completing a round of high school golf can take four or five hours, Gladden embraced the experience.

“I really like golf because you’re outside and it takes you away from the whole school environment,” she said. “Golf gives me an opportunity to just relax and enjoy. It’s a sport that allows for self-reflection. I also like how golf is an individual sport that can be meshed into a team sport.”

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Marty Farmer

The Illinois Press Association recently honored Marty with the 1st & 2nd Place Awards for Best Sports Feature for his article He's in an Oak Park state of mind: Former OPRF star Iman Shumpert returns...

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