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Senior Spotlight: Derrick Herker

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Vandalia senior has dreams of someday playing professional golf

By Andrew Harner

Not too many people are blessed with the opportunity to become a professional golfer.

But that hasn’t stopped Derrick Herker from giving the idea some thought.

The Vandalia High School senior knows he would be a longshot to make the PGA Tour and isn’t even sure if he will try to play on the Amateur Tour after college, but when talking about his dream of becoming a pro on Monday morning, Herker’s eyes lit up with excitement.

“Not to sound cocky, but I feel like I have talent in this, and I need to go somewhere with it, because I feel like I have a chance to do something,” he said.  “Hopefully, I’ll play in college. I’ve been thinking about that for awhile, and then (possibly) getting on the Amateur Tour, but I’ll have to work my butt off for that.

“I’ll practice a lot more than I do right now, that’s for sure,” he said of his preparation if he pursues that option.

And that would be a ton of practice, because Herker already is out on the course almost every day.

With putting being the weakest aspect of his overall game entering his final high school season, Herker said he can often be found on the No. 6 green at Vandalia Country Club stroking putt after putt.

“I really need to work on putting,” he said. “I am terrible at that, right now.

“(Improving at putting is) mostly committing,” Herker said, “coming out and hitting 100 putts to work on a solid stroke. Usually, I’m out here at 9 or 10 every morning, and I hit 100 balls or so.”

Otherwise, his game is sound, as he said his wedge shots are “consistent,” his iron-club shots are “on target,” and his drives and wooden-club shots are “good.”

If he stays consistent through the first two weeks of October, Herker has a good chance to return to the state meet at Prairie Vista Golf Course in Bloomington, a course at which he said he is comfortable playing.

Last fall, Herker placed in a tie for 26th at state, with a two-day total of 157, which was 12 strokes behind the leader.

“I plan on going back, but if it doesn’t happen, it doesn’t happen. If it does, it does,” he said. “If I do go back, I’m working my butt off to get a top 10.”

In last year’s tournament, eight golfers tied for eighth place, with a 153, so Herker’s goal is definitely attainable.

Wind was a factor at state last season, and because of that, Herker had what he believes is his longest-ever drive on the 11th hole, “crushing” a ball about 320 yards, which is 20-30 yards longer than his typical drives.

His strong drive helps him on some of the holes at Vandalia Country Club’s course, including the par five sixth, a hole on which Herker likes to try to get eagles.

Eagles would serve him well in his pursuit of golfing at a higher level, and he hopes his next stop is at the collegiate level, possibly at Illinois College.

Herker has considered majoring in accounting, but he plans to take his general education courses his freshman year, then declare a major.

Moving up to a higher level of competition probably won’t help him attain one other golf accomplishment he has always dreamed about.

“I wish,” Herker said when asked if he had ever made a hole-in-one.

The Senior Spotlight is a weekly feature story on one or more senior athletes from one of the seven high schools that are covered by The Leader-Union. To nominate an athlete for potential inclusion in the series, e-mail aharner@leaderunion.com with a brief explanation of why the athlete should be included.