Jake Bears of Kearsarge: Golf Player of the Season

  • Kearsarge’s Jake Bears tees off on the sixth hole of the NHIAA Division III team championships on Oct. 10 at Owl’s Resort & Golf Club in Thornton. Bears shot a 79 to finish second overall and lead the Cougars to a second-place team finish, the best result in the program’s history. RICH MIYARA / NH Sports Photography

Published: 12/15/2017 10:07:06 AM

When Kearsarge golf coach Dave Muzzey briefly retired in the spring of 2016, Jake Bears was a rising sophomore who had yet to break through.

By the time Muzzey returned this past fall for his 18th season, Bears had developed into a full-fledged star.

“I got to coach him his sophomore year and he was up and coming, learning the game but wasn’t very experienced in tournament golf ... it was more of mental thing than it was skill for him,” Muzzey said.

“This year, coming on the scene he just had the whole package. He really learned how to handle himself in those pressure situations and I really relied on him as the captain of the team to lead us.”

Bears, though, did more than just simply lead the Cougars to a fine year. He was named a Division III First Team All-State selection, helped the team to a 24-3 record during the regular season and then shot a 7-over par 79 at the D-III tournament to lift Kearsarge to a runner-up finish – its best result in program history.

“He was kind of that consistent piece of the puzzle. You could always rely on Jake,” Muzzey said. “He was going to go out and do his job. He knew what was at stake and he not only played for himself, but basically put the team first because winning for the team was what it was all about.”

A major milestone for Bears and the Cougars during the regular season was a win over perennial power and eventual champion Derryfield on Sept. 27.

The Cougars were the only program to hand Derryfield a loss during the season, and while they ultimately lost to that same Derryfield team by six strokes in the state tournament, Muzzey said he saw a different team after that day.

“As soon as you start believing that you’re not as good as Derryfield, or not as good as the top teams, you start playing like it,” Muzzey said. “That day we did beat Derryfield, I saw an amazing change in the team and we knew that we could go to states and win it and that’s the attitude we had.”

During the D-III tournament at Owl’s Nest Resort & Golf Club on Oct. 10, Bears’ performance was good enough for second place behind Sanborn’s Keegan Branham. In fact, at one point during his round, Bears rattled off 10 straight pars.

He then shot an 83 the next morning in the individual tournament, securing fourth overall with a total of 162.

“I think a lot of it had to do with self confidence, just understanding that he had the abilities and could go out and compete with any of the kids out there and he proved it,” Muzzey said. “I can’t remember how many times he was match medalist, but he went out and really proved himself. ... The more experience he got in those pressure situations, the more he excelled.”

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