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Bottom of the cup

PV trying to reach new heights this postseason

Submitted photo / Kelly Summers Photography Pymatuning Valley’s Eric Heym putts during the season. The Lakers are on the cusp of advancing to new heights this season.

Jeff Compan has been in the Pymatuning Valley School District for 23 years, and he’s been the golf coach for 18 seasons, but he’s on the verge of experiencing a lot of firsts with the Lakers.

PV has never had a team advance to the district tournament, to Compan’s knowledge. The Lakers have never finished undefeated, and Compan has never, ever coached a team like this one — and the winning has little to do with it.

“Instead of just playing nine holes when I’m there, they’ll go out and play on the weekends. They play 9 with me and then go out and play another 9, and that’s really created a good bond between them,” he said. “They give each other rides to the course. They take each other home if a kid doesn’t have a license. It’s really a family atmosphere for the first time in a long time for us. This is really a close-knit group.”

They joke like a family as well.

The deepest team in Compan’s tenure is on the cusp of a historic season — thanks to a pair of twin brothers and some friendly banter that has helped keep all of them enjoying the game regardless of the situation. The success of the Lakers, who are 12-0 and already clinched a league title, starts with Eric and Ryan Heym.

Submitted photo / Kelly Summers Pymatuning Valley’s Ryan Heym drives this season. He’s part of the Lakers’ successful run.

The Heyms own almost identical averages, with one at 41.1 and the other at 41.2. They’ve grown from freshmen who “couldn’t get a ball off the ground” to team leaders who helped piece together the best team in the Northeastern Athletic Conference. The Lakers have seven players averaging under 50, and any of their top six players could end up with the best score on any given day.

The twins helped bring it all together, and they did it in interesting fashion.

“They’re identical in all aspects,” Compan said, “but they don’t like to play with each other because they just harp on each other, and it blows up.”

Separating the two not only ended their family feud, but it helped create some fun-loving jeering within the rest of the team.

“Oh gosh they trash talk each other,” Compan said with a laugh. “They make fun of each other. When we have an away match, the guys that play the worst kind of get ribbed in the van the whole way home. It’s good natured. It’s not anything harmful. It’s funny. I just kind of drive and listen to them, and I smile because it brings me back to when I was in high school and we used to bust each other’s chops a little bit.”

The joking does more than just make everyone laugh.

It’s a much-needed calming mechanism in a sport that can cause even the best players to become frustrated. Teammates such as Jansen Smith, Michael Clark and Nate Henry, along with the Heyms, all understand when to joke and when to be encouraging. The balance has created a great chemistry.

“When we get along and have fun with the game, it does take a lot of pressure and a lot of stress out of it,” Eric Heym said. “A lot of people step up, and they’ll have a million thoughts going at a million miles an hour in their head, but when you’re out there just having fun with your friends, it does make it a lot easier, and your scores will be lower as a result because you’re having fun. You’re not stressing out about the bad shots you had. Overall, it just makes the experience better.”

It’s not all fun and games for PV.

They practice even when there’s not practice. They practice when they probably shouldn’t practice, and it’s paying off. The majority of the Lakers just recently started golfing, including the Heyms. They played football up until their freshmen year. Inspired by their grandmother, they picked up golf and then picked up some recruits. Clark and Smith joined the group over the last two years, and the results have been impressive, improving their record each of the last three years (9-11 in 2017, 12-8 in 2018 and 16-1 in 2019).

Practice has made perfect.

“Repetitive practice, even when you don’t think you have the correct environment,” said Eric of what has led to their success. “My brother and I were outside, even though we don’t come in contact with bunkers a lot, he and I would be out there when it’s negative-10 degrees outside in the snow hitting golf balls out of the snow to imitate hitting it out of a bunker. We purposely take a shovel and clear out a little section of our yard so we can set the net up and hit. It’s just a dedication you have to have in order to improve.

“You have to be very patient. It’s the most intense hand-eye coordination sport that there is, so it’s going to take a lot of patience, and you have to keep an open mind because even though you think you may be doing things right, you’re not.”

Their goals aren’t all based on success.

Ryan Heym admitted that moving on to the district as a team — the top three schools at the sectional advance — would be an amazing experience, as would finishing undefeated. But he’s keeping his focus on a team that just enjoys playing the game.

“It would be nice, but frankly, me, as a senior, I take that more as a leadership kind of thing,” he said of his expectations. “All I’m focused on is making both the program at PV and my teammates better.

“… I honestly think the chemistry between all of us is what’s really bringing us forward. We don’t leave anybody on the team behind. We always just push each other forward.”

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