Boys golf state finals: Mike Barenie has winning approach
By Mike Hutton 648-3139 or firstname.lastname@example.org June 11, 2012 9:06PM
Lake Central's Mike Barenie tees off during the LaPorte regional Friday June 8, 2012. | Andy Lavalley~Sun-Times Media
Where: The Legends of Indiana Golf Course, Par 72.
When: Today and Wednesday
Local team: Valparaiso
Individuals: Joel Collins, LaPorte; Mike Barenie, Lake Central
Outlook: Valparaiso is going to have to chop at least seven or eight strokes off its regional score to make the second day. The Vikings shot a 305 at LaPorte — and won by three strokes. A score somewhere around 295 — seven over par — is possible for them. Bobby Jacobs, their No. 2 golfer, struggled at Beechwood with an 82. Kyle Meihofer has finished consistently in the low to mid 70s — he shot a 72 last week. Collins shot a 2-under-70 at Beechwood, his home course. He has the advantage of having played in the state finals last year, so he could put up a number. Hard to say how the day will unfold for Barenie. He has never played on the course.
Updated: July 13, 2012 6:24AM
Mike Barenie, a strapping, broad-shouldered red head, has a motor that used to run pretty hot.
“I’ve tossed a few clubs in my day,” Barenie said.
Those days are mostly behind Barenie, a senior at Lake Central.
It’s no coincidence that Barenie’s scores dropped and his confidence soared when he found a way to channel his inner disgust at a bad shot and control his expectations.
The shoulder slumping, the self-criticism, the normal demons that can drive golfers crazy are no longer part of Barenie’s approach.
It’s not that he doesn’t feel the pain of a bad play, it’s that he has learned to let go.
“I’ve been working hard on my game,” he said. “Especially my mental game. When I have a bad hole, I try to be as focused as I can and then move on. Sometimes, it still gets the best of me.”
Barenie hopes he permanently whipped the golf demons into submission after he shot an even-par-72 at the LaPorte Regional on Friday, earning him a spot in the state tournament.
It was an incredibly clutch round for Barenie. Every year, it seems like it’s a little harder for individuals to qualify for state. Even par was the last score in. To make it even sweeter, Barenie beat Kyle Meihofer of Valparaiso in a play-off for the third-place ribbon.
With a state finals appearance and an all-conference selection already accomplished, Barenie has met his goals.
Those goals are miles away from where he was as an impetuous, frisky freshman who had the talent but no real idea of how to play.
Barenie smiled when he recalled what he shot on his own home course, Palmira, in his school’s invitational as a freshman: 111.
That means he chopped 39 strokes, not even a good nine-hole score for him any more, off his game in three seasons.
Barenie can afford to chuckle about it now.
“I had such high expectations when I was younger,” he said. “I knew I had a lot of potential but I didn’t have a lot of experience. I would let my head get in the way of me.”
Barenie’s approach to living up to his own high expectations was to work hard.
He spends so much time playing at Palmira that some of the people close to him believe he lives there.
“I practice a lot,” he said. “Some people don’t believe how much I practice. I just go out there every day and play as many holes as I can.”
Even the practice and talent weren’t enough for Barenie to really believe that he was as good as anyone around the area — until the last few weeks of the season.
Lake Central coach Chris Rossiano spent the early part of the season talking Barenie off a few cliffs, trying to channel positive energy into something useful for him and help him forget about the bad stuff.
“He lacked confidence early in the year,” Rossiano said. “He’d have a bad hole and dwell on it and it would affect the next hole.”
Those days are behind Barenie.
Barenie was actually leading the regionals at one point after getting his score to 3-under par.
Rossiano is talking him up now, expecting him to make the cut, knowing that he played with some of the best golfers in the state and the first-place trophy was within his grasp.
For Barenie, the state finals are important for a couple of different reasons.
He’s done with golf when they are finished. He doesn’t plan to play at Indiana next year when he goes to college.
He wants to do well but he also wants to savor the experience.
“I’m going to have fun and enjoy it,” he said.