As an avid hunter and fisherman, it’s no surprise that golf’s slow-tempo pace and serene landscape captured the heart of Josh Sadler.
The picturesque fairways, fresh-cut grass and well-maintained sloping greens provide the perfect backdrop for Sadler to find his niche — an arena that even from a young age, Sadler appreciated more than the average kid.
Drawn into the game by his dad, Sadler spent countless hours as a kid perfecting his craft on the driving range, putting greens and links of Windsor Country Club. The groundwork of golf’s physically and mentally demanding makeup was established before dawn on summer mornings, as Sadler made it to the course before most people unfolded the paper and took their first sip of coffee.
A decade later, the once starry-eyed 7-year-old has transformed into one of the pre-eminent Class 1 golfers in the Show-Me State.
“Knowing that it’s just yourself out on the course, not relying on anybody else, is comforting because it’s your fault and own doing if you don’t perform,” Sadler said. “It’s a serene game and very much the ultimate individual sport that’s both mental and physical. You really can’t have many off days, and you have to prepare yourself to play well in pressure situations.”
The 5-foot-10 senior’s all-around game has propelled him to state all four years, and his poise and track record on golf’s biggest stage sets him up as the clear-cut favorite in this year’s Class 1 state tournament. Sadler, the defending champion, placed sixth his sophomore season before capturing last year’s title with a two-day score of 152. Sadler overcame a two-stroke deficit on the final day to split the title with seniors Trey Allison, of Tipton, and J.D. Nash, of Newburg.
The split championship was a steppingstone for Sadler, but has also given the seasoned veteran motivation to emerge as the lone state champion Tuesday at Twin Oaks Country Club in Springfield.
“Coming into my junior year, I couldn’t take a step backwards after finishing sixth my sophomore year, so my goal naturally was to win state,” Sadler said. “Finishing in a tie for first was great, but I still haven’t got what I’m reaching for. To go out on top alone would be a great feeling and it’s only fitting that my game feels better than it has in a long time.”
With former foes Nash and Allison off to college, Sadler’s path to redemption is tailor-made for a storybook finish to his high school career.
Entering this season, though, Sadler’s biggest obstacle lied not with his opponents, but in minimizing the mistakes that plagued him a year ago.
Armed with a smarter approach and the experience to concede a stroke with a pitch-out, Sadler improved his scores this year by eliminating the costly double bogeys. He shot a personal-best 68 at Higginsville earlier in the year, and on the doorsteps of state, his focus hasn’t lost sight of putting a stamp on his legacy at Windsor.
“Focus is really the staple of his game. He’s poised, he’s experienced and he’s had tunnel vision this year in winning a championship,” Windsor coach Sally Armstrong said. “He’s such a good competitor and knows how to win, and he really hasn’t had any major slip-ups this year that would indicate him not doing well at state.”
Besides focus, Sadler will bring with him to state a strong arsenal of weapons. His short-iron game is on point and equipped with a long game off the tee, anything within 150 yards sets up ideally for his flag-tracking pitching wedge shot. His short game, like most, is inconsistent but the X-factor lies in his abilities off the green.
Despite taking on a course with several sand traps and hazards at state, Sadler’s number to shoot for is a two-day total of 145, seven strokes better than last year. With another year of experience under his belt, Sadler’s confident that he can stand alone at the top this year.
“I really just want to go out there and hit the ball solid. I know if my driver’s on and I’m putting solid, it’s going to be a good two days,” Sadler said.