ATHELETE of the WEEK: Chippewa Falls McDonell's Thomas Longbella

In our Gordy's Athlete of the Week feature, SportScene 13's Bob Gallaher introduces one of the top golfers in the state. A young man with a bright future on the links who is finding out that it's best to have a short memory when you tee it up.

"You just have to take your medicine, get the hole over with and keep your head high."

That was lesson learned for Chippewa Falls McDonell freshman Thomas Longbella. After sharing the first round lead at the WIAA Division 3 state tournament last month at University Ridge, Thomas made an eight on his first hole in his second round, Longbella went on to shoot an 80 to finish 7th in his first state tournament experience.

Longbella says, "I've learned that you can never put yourself out of it so after the first hole, I wasn't really out of it, but I felt like I was. I should have picked my head up and moved on to the next hole instead of being down on myself but I learned a lot from that. It was just good to play better players and everybody else in the state, it was fun."

Thomas has quickly turned what some would perceive as a negative result at the state tournament into a positive. Last week in Milwaukee, Longbella finished second at the Wisconsin PGA Junior championships, he did win his age group after a second round 3-under 69. And this past Monday, Thomas shot a 77 to qualify for the Wisconsin State Amateur which will be held later this month.

Longbella says, "That's why I think it's good to play in the state-am, state match play and the state open because you play with, it's like a whole other level of guys playing in those tournaments compared to high school tournaments or even with Wisconsin PGA's, you get college players or even professionals to play with you so it's a good time."

The strength in Longbella's game is his length off the tee, Thomas makes it look effortless in driving the ball 300 yards,"Golf courses are getting longer and longer so it's not a big advantage but still means a lot, scrambling around and not giving up, make birdies when I need to and that helps a lot. I've never had a swing coach but my brother and Dad always help me out when I'm in slumps and I don't know, I think it's best to know your own swing and be able to fix your own misses and understand the golf swing."

And while Thomas will enjoy playing in numerous tournaments this summer, he's already looking forward to his sophomore season and getting another shot at a state title.

Longbella says, "That's what I want to do, it's a great goal to have to win state, put yourself out there for colleges to see you. I'd love to play golf after even high school and after college it would be a fun experience, would be nice to make it a job."


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