EATON — Although both took different paths to fulfilling their dreams of playing college golf, Eaton’s Sarah Willis and Sean Hodges took the next step to make those dreams a reality when they signed national letters of intent last week.
The duo signed Wednesday, Nov. 8, during the first week they could officially sign, in front of family and friends at Eaton High School.
Willis will play for Penn State University, a NCAA Division I program, which plays in the Big Ten, and Hodges will further his education and playing career at NAIA Division I Cincinnati Christian University.
”It’s a very exciting day for Eaton High School,” Eaton Athletic Director Travis Miller said. “It’s a very happy day, personally, as an athletic director, when you see young people have the opportunity to go on and pursue their dream, their goal of playing their particular sport at the next level. That’s very exciting and something that we all should be very proud of.”
Willis, a two-time state champion, and three-time state qualifier is happy the recruiting process is over and said Penn State was everything she was looking for in a school. She verbally committed to Penn State in February.
“I just had a list of things that I wanted to get out of a school, such as a good team, good coach, and beautiful campus and just great academics. Penn State met all of those and I just feel like that’s definitely going to be my second home,” she said.
Willis, who began playing golf at an early age, said the recruiting trail was a “tough, long drawn out process.” She said the recruiting process started when she was in the eighth grade.
She added, “I’m glad with where I ended up. But it’s stressful.”
Willis finished her career as the only female athlete in Eaton High School history with multiple state championships.
“I’m just super grateful to have accomplished what I’ve accomplished. I’m thankful to all of the people who have supported me,” she said.
She is currently undecided on a major.
“I’ve made too many decisions already for my life,” she said laughing.
Eaton girls’ golf coach Tim Appledorn said Willis deserves everything she’s accomplished on and off the course.
“As good a golfer as she is, she’s even a better person in the classroom and outside in the community. Penn State is getting a great person and a great athlete,” he said.
Hodges didn’t begin playing golf until he was in the sixth grade and immediately fell in love with the sport.
“I was a little late coming to the game. I started playing when I was in the sixth grade. It was all natural. No lessons or nothing,” he said.
He said he thought about playing college golf as freshman, but didn’t fully realize his potential until his junior year.
“I realized it toward the end of my junior year, actually, realized it my freshman year,” he said. “I knew I had the potential to play college golf. Nobody pushed my harder than coaches. They always told me to chase my dreams.”
He said CCU is the right fit.
“It’s a good fit for me. I went up there and visited earlier last spring. Ever since I went there I knew it was where I was supposed to be,” he said.
Hodges, a first-team all-league player, helped lead the Eagles to a runner-up finished in the Southwestern Buckeye League Southwestern Division, as well as a trip to the district tournament.
“We had a pretty good season. We almost took down Oakwood this year and that’s a big deal around here. We made it to districts and almost made it to state to,” he said. “It was pretty good season.”
Hodges said he plans on majoring in business management with a concentration on sports management.
Eaton boys’ golf coach Randy Titkemeyer said he is proud of the player Hodges has become.
“In the fall, he came and told me ‘my goal was to be first team SWBL.’ I know most aren’t familiar with our golf league, but in this league fist team SWBL is very good … it’s not an easy task to do. He was a scorer we could count on to win a match. I’m just so proud of him for what he did here,” Titkemeyer said. “I saw an incredible amount of maturity from Sean this year. He deserves all the credit. He had a fantastic year this year.”
Reach Eddie Mowen Jr. at 937-683-4056 or on Twitter @emowen_RH