BISMARCK — Andy Bott is not certain how it got started, not certain why he started hitting a golf ball from the left side.
Not sure either why he writes with his right hand or throws a baseball with his left hand or shoots a basketball with his left hand.
He’s even less sure why he serves a tennis ball with his left hand but shifts the racquet to his right for a forehand shot.
All the Bismarck-Henning junior knows is that his ability to be ambidextrous works well for him.
“Basically, I just went with whatever felt the most natural,” Bott said, “and it ended up being weird, but that’s just the way it felt best.”
He is now a two-time top-10 Class 1A state placer in golf and the back-to-back recipient of the Area Boys’ Golfer of the Year award.
B-H coach Terry French sees a special trait in Bott that helps to explain his success.
“He has a great personality for the game,” French said. “His easy-going mentality suits this game just fine.
“Golf if a game of forgetting what just happened and moving forward. Andy has that ability to put behind him what happened on the previous hole and move forward.”
French played a key role.
“He would always wait for me after the first hole of a tournament, to see how I did,” Bott said. “No matter how I did on that hole, he would make me laugh by telling me a joke or something to get my mind off of golf. He has helped me tremendously.”
Bott is able to salvage a good round out of one with a near-disastrous start.
In a tournament at The Den (in Bloomington), Bott said, “I had an awful front nine and couldn’t get anything going.”
However, on the back nine, “I birdied six holes, four of them in a row, and ended up winning the tournament,” he said.
During the Vermilion Valley Conference meet in September, his front nine was what he called “an average one,” of 37.
After making the turn, Bott put together a 30 for the final nine holes. That score was the best nine-hole mark in B-H history and earned him conference medalist honors.
“Other than a 65 in a practice round (at Harrison Park), that 67 was my low round in a tournament,” Bott said.
Bott’s entrance into golf came for the same reason he started playing baseball, basketball, football, soccer, swimming and tennis.
“The appeal to me was just the fact that I wanted to try every sport when I was young,” Bott said. “I never really anticipated anything (from a particular sport) growing up because I didn’t want to get caught up in just one sport.”
His parents, Kirk and Joy, were golfers, and as a 7-year-old, Bott accompanied them to the course.\
“I didn’t know very much about the game, but I knew my parents loved it, so I wanted to try it,” Andy Bott said. “I started going out to play with my parents in very little amounts. I would just drive the cart and usually putt out for them.”
Some sports were easy for Bott to discard. He got hurt in football and decided that year was enough.
The 6-foot-4 Bott still plays basketball as well as tennis, a sport he said, “I used to like more than golf.”
Golf, however, is the sport where Bott has made his claim to fame.
He was the regional medalist as a junior, leading the Blue Devils to a repeat team title. As a sophomore he was the sectional medalist, leading B-H to team honors.
Bott has a work ethic that embodies the spirit of desire and determination. During summer break, chances are that he’ll be at a golf course.
“I practiced for hours every day,” he said. “I would go to Danville Country Club in the morning and leave in the late afternoon. That’s the only way you can improve if you want to really succeed.”
Even if it’s just a practice round, Bott finds a way to make it competitive. He encouraged his teammates to work on their games, and senior Austin Toler was among the summer regulars.
“Andy and I always have games that we play,” Toler said, “like who can get it closer to the hole and who can drive it the furthest. Every time we play, we want to beat each other and that’s probably why we did so well this year.”
Though he respects Bott for his golf game — “the things he can do are just crazy,” Toler said — he is most impressed by the person when he’s not golfing.
“He is one of the nicest people you will ever meet,” Toler said. “You just can’t hate the kid.”
French said Bott is the epitome of sportsmanship and outstanding deportment.
“Andy does set a great example and shows what we are trying to teach the guys, how to respect people, always handle yourself with class and to work hard for your goals,” French said.
Bott family vacations mean the opportunity to get away from East Central Illinois, but not from the game of golf.
“Last spring, in Hilton Head, I got to use a Segway at this great course, instead of a golf cart, and even chased three big alligators off the fairway and into a pond when they were near my ball on the fairway,” Bott said.
Bott’s ability to “forget what just happened,” as French said, was illustrated during the fall when the team played at Lake of the Woods, near Mahomet.
“The guys all got their clubs,” French said, “and as we were walking away, someone yelled that we had forgot something at the back of the vehicle.
“When we turned around, all of the guys knew Andy had left his shoes on the ground.”
Bott is still waiting for that one special shot, the one many veterans have never hit: a hole-in-one.
“I have spun it inches past the hole on No. 8 at the country club,” Bott said, “but I’ve never had one.”
You can bank on the fact Bott will keep trying. And when he gets one, he’ll keep trying for another.
Though he has played the game for more than a decade, Bott is optimistic that he is still in his infancy as a golfer.
“I hope my golfing days are never over,” he said. “This is one of the greatest games ever invented and I’ll be crushed when the day comes that I can never play it again.”
Get to know Andy Bott
Why he’s Player of the Year: Tied for eighth at state in Class 1A, firing a 75 in the rain-shortened tournament, a score matched (among others) by Tuscola’s Cameron Westjohn. Lowered his nine-hole season stroke average from 2011 (37.9) to 37.5, which tied for the area lead with Judah Christian’s Nick Berger.
Season highlights: “The satisfaction of being one of the state’s top golfers for two consecutive years as an all-stater is one of the best feelings I’ve known. It is such an honor to have played on the B-H golf teams my freshman, sophomore and junior years. We couldn’t have done it without our coach, Terry French,” Bott said.
A few of my favorite things: Pizza ... mathematics ... “Ace Ventura, When Nature Calls” ... “The Greatest Game Ever Played” ... Jim Carrey ... Giordano’s ... a 2003 BMW 525i ... Working in the back at Danville Country Club ... an ophthalmologist. ... On my bucket list, to play a full round with Rory McIlroy, go sky-diving and learn how to fly a plane.
About Bott: “His short game is improving and will continue to improve as he moves forward. He is also getting more length to his game, and with his size, he builds up quite an arc to his swing. He will only hit it farther as his body matures. I look for great things ahead for him next year as hopefully these college coaches are looking at him.” — Terry French, B-H coach.
Area Honorable Mention
NAME SCHOOL YR.
Nick Berger Judah Christian Sr.
C.J. Bishop Blue Ridge Sr.
Mike Braverman Centennial So.
Noah Campbell Bismarck-Henning So.
Austin Cochennour Tuscola Sr.
Mason Combs Schlarman Sr.
Jesse Dankle St. Thomas More Jr.
Trey Davis Danville Sr.
J.T. Donahue Urbana Jr.
Alex Duffy Prairie Central Fr.
Tyler Ellis Danville Sr.
Ryan Erhard Judah Christian Sr.
C.G. Facer Urbana Sr.
Romer Gillespie Watseka Sr.
Garrett Grimsley St. Joseph-Ogden Fr.
Logan Hannon Mahomet-Seymour Jr.
Luke Heinz Tuscola Sr.
Kyler Hoffman Prairie Central Sr.
Ryan Hunt Centennial Sr.
Shane Irby Cissna Park Jr.
Tyler Jacobs Ridgeview Sr.
Cory Jayne Blue Ridge Fr.
Christian Khachaturian Centennial So.
Andrew Kelley Schlarman Sr.
Harrison Lescak Schlarman Sr.
Austin Merritt Chrisman Jr.
Lucas Mossman Sullivan Sr.
Ned O’Brien Schlarman Sr.
Isaac Overman Centennial So.
Brock Peavler Rantoul/PBL Sr.
Mason Potts Blue Ridge So.
Devyn Roesch GCMS So.
Grey Schultz Centennial Sr.
Lincoln Slagel Prairie Central Sr.
Christopher Tate St. Thomas More So.
Tyler Taylor Monticello Sr.
Michael Thompson Urbana Sr.
Riley Thompson Champaign Central Jr.
Austin Toler Bismarck-Henning Sr.
David Warren Bismarck-Henning So.
Cameron Westjohn Tuscola Sr.
Kameron Wilken Iroquois West Fr.