Like the courses he’s played on the last three years, senior Jack Person’s career has had its fair share of peaks and valleys.
Persons set school 36-hole and 54-hole records as a freshman, and helped his team win the Atlantic 10 championship. The following year, he posted the eighth-best season scoring average in program history at 75.3.
But then as a junior, Persons endured the worst statistical year of his career. He finished five events on par compared to seven-par and six-par finishes in his first two seasons, respectively, and his stroke average of 76.16 was the highest of his career.
Now in his final year on the team, Persons is on track to have his best season yet as a Colonial. Through 12 rounds of play this season, the San Francisco native is in position to post the best season scoring average in program history.
“I haven’t yet played to what I think my ability is,” Persons said. “I’m still waiting for my breakout round.”
After posting just one top-10 finish in both his sophomore and junior seasons, Persons has a top-five finish and two top-10 finishes through just four events this year.
Persons placed fifth out of 104 players at George Mason’s Patriot Intercollegiate last week, carding an even par total of 213 (72-71-70) and helping the team to its eighth-lowest 54-hole team total (876) in program history. Persons’ 213 was also the seventh-best 54-hole total in program history, and seven shots off his freshman record of 206.
He followed that performance with a 54-hole total of 223 (73-78-72) at the Wolfpack Intercollegiate, good enough for a tie for 36th in the 93-player field. And Tuesday, he finished tied for ninth at the Terrapin Invitational out of a 75-player field.
Persons credits his strong performances this season to a mental switch, and head coach Chuck Scheinost said he’s seen Persons show increased resilience during tricky rounds, when in past years he might not have scored well.
“In other years his ‘bad’ round may have been an 80 or an 82, but now he’s getting to the point where it’s a 76 or 78 because he’s really sticking with each round for the team’s sake,” said Scheinost, now in his second year as coach. “He’s also showing that ability to put together a ‘bounce back’ round.”
As the lone senior on this year’s roster, Persons is not only tasked with getting back to form but with leading GW in the huddle.
The soft-spoken Persons prefers to lead with his golf clubs rather than his voice. While he said he has tried to become more expressive with his teammates, his actions on the course are what junior Steve Piela said younger players notice most.
“He is always the first one to arrive at practice and stays late,” Piela said. “He’s very approachable, so I think that makes it easier for the younger guys to settle in, and for all of us to come together to achieve the same goal.”
Persons called this year’s team the most talented and dedicated group of players he’s played with – a team capable of reaching even greater heights than the 2011-12 breakout club.
“These guys really want it,” Persons said. “I’d like to qualify for regionals as a team, and I think we’re going to have to win the A-10 in order to do that, but we are fully equipped to do just that.”
And his high hopes have rubbed off on the rest of his teammates.
“The mindset is definitely different this year, and I think Jack is a big part of that,” Piela said. “We understand that we have the capability to achieve what we want to achieve, we just need to keep putting that work in.”