NASHVILLE, Tenn. — Growing up, playing miniature golf can be fun for any kid. It still can be fun for most adults.
And since before he can remember, Harrison Ott frequently played miniature golf at a golf range near his house in Brookfield, Wisconsin.
Nobody in his family thought those outings would have any influence on where he is today.
Starting at three years old, Ott can remember hitting golf balls at that same golf range with his dad and sister. Whenever his father, Bart Ott, went to play a round with his friends, Harrison was always in the golf cart riding along.
“I just wanted to be with my dad any time that he played,” Ott said. “His buddies got a kick out of me riding along and they were always happy that I came. Those early experiences taught me so much about the game of golf.”
While he played as much as he could growing up, Ott never really knew if he was good enough to compete against other youth golfers in his age group.
When he was 12 years old, an opportunity to play for Team Wisconsin in the Wisconsin/Minnesota Cup came about. It was a tournament that required two boys from every age group starting at 12 years old and ending at 18 years old.
“The captain of Team Wisconsin was a dad from my home course,” Ott said. “They had a kid drop out of the tournament so he called my dad to see if I would be interested. My dad and I had no idea how it would turn out.”
It turned out alright as Ott birdied the 17th hole and parred the 18th hole of his last match. After the tournament, Ott’s amateur golf career took off and he never looked back.
After playing soccer, basketball and baseball growing up, golf became Ott’s sole focus going into high school.
Going into his junior year, he was ranked third in the country by the Amateur Junior Golf Association. Ott was also one of only two players to make the Round of 16 at the Western Amateur and the US Amateur this past summer.
Ott always dreamed of playing golf in college, but just like when he was younger, he did not know if he was good enough compared to other golfers.
He started looking at local schools like the University of Wisconsin and Marquette University until one day Vanderbilt sent a letter in the mail. After brushing it off at first, Bart Ott urged his son to look at the school in Nashville.
After going on a visit and meeting with Vanderbilt head coach Scott Limbaugh, Ott knew immediately that Vanderbilt was where he wanted to be.
“After talking to the guys who were already on the team, I knew coach Limbaugh was the right coach for me,” Ott said. “He is a player’s coach who is fun, relatable and he trusts his players which fits the style of player that I am.”
That coaching strategy has paid off as Ott won the Wisconsin State open last summer.
Before the COVID-19 pandemic cut the spring season short, Ott had a 70.3 stroke average through three events – lower than any stroke average he had in his college career.
Looking to carry the hot streak from last season, Ott and the Commodores will play in the Vanderbilt Legends Collegiate on Oct.25-27 at the Vanderbilt Legends Club in Franklin, Tennessee.
— Scott Meyer is a fifth-year senior for the Vanderbilt football program.