Burrell’s Tiger Hubbard hopes for roaring finish at WPIAL golf championships

Wednesday, September 27, 2017 | 10:45 PM

Tiger Hubbard played for the first time on the Advocates Professional Golf Tour over the summer, and as he watched his competitors — golfers who played in PGA Tour events or on the Web.com Tour — he wasn't struck as much by their physical abilities as their mental prowess.

“One of the main things that really shocked me was it's not like they do incredible things with their shots,” Hubbard said. “Most of them, they don't really hit the ball a lot farther than me. It's just they played smarter shots. It was just interesting to see how their thought process on the course (was).”

Hubbard hopes to put some of that knowledge to good use Thursday as he competes for the second straight year at the WPIAL Class AA individual championships at Allegheny Country Club.

The Burrell junior turned in a top-10 performance last season, finishing in eighth place, but he was in contention for the title until his tee shot on the 16th hole went awry, landing on the driving range and submarining his round.

He's approaching his second appearance at WPIALs strategically.

“I think I just need to play safe, make sure (I) keep everything down,” Hubbard said. “And kind of going into my round, realize what my misses are tending to be, moreso. On holes like 16 with the range to the right, just play a shot that will keep me safe.”

Hubbard began playing in junior tournaments at age 4, but the experience with the Advocates Pro Tour afforded him a new opportunity. The tour aims to increase diversity in golf by giving opportunities to black golfers and other minorities.

“They want to see more African-Americans on the professional tour, so Tiger obviously being an African-American and showing some potential as a junior golfer, he was given the opportunity to play with these guys,” said George Hubbard, Tiger's father. “It was a great experience. These are playing professionals. These guys, they're out there playing professionally all over the world.”

And while Tiger Hubbard — who was born eight days after Tiger Woods won the 2001 Masters — said he “didn't do amazing,” the experience still sticks with him.

A new swing also is helping Hubbard this season. He worked with local pro Kevin Shields over the winter at Robert Morris' Island Sports Center to develop the overhaul, which fixed a lot of Hubbard's backswing.

“(It) allowed more leeway for me to work coming into the ball,” he said. “It gave me some more power, but it also helps with my accuracy because last year my swing, the way that it was going, I would swing through the ball (and) there was very little room for me to have error. Any error that I had became a huge miss.

“My new swing that I have has allowed for when I do miss, it's not as bad. Now, I can figure out better how to correct that for my next shot, whereas last year it could have been a number of things.”

Hubbard said his old swing contributed to the big miss at WPIALs last season.

After what he called a slow start to the season as he worked his new swing into his game, Hubbard is rounding into form as he approaches the WPIAL finals. He won his second consecutive Section 1-AA title earlier this month at Greensburg Country Club, shooting a 79.

And armed with his swing and his strategy, he hopes to contend for his first WPIAL championship.

“I haven't seen how too many other players from other parts of the WPIAL are doing,” he said. “I hope that I can put up a good number.”

Doug Gulasy is a Tribune-Review staff writer.


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