Ackerhans Ready for Winning Time This Fall
Sept. 12, 2012
CHICAGO – The timing could not have been much worse for Moritz Ackerhans.
On the night before a potentially life-changing meeting with DePaul golf coach Betty Kaufmann, Ackerhans had his senior prom.
Not only that, but he was also one of the main organizers of the special event.
And so, after a long night, Ackerhans took a seven-hour train ride from his hometown of Kiel in Germany to Frankfurt.
Needless to say, he was operating on pure adrenaline when played in a tournament and discussed a golf scholarship afterwards.
“It’s hard to sleep on a train,” Ackerhans said about catching a power nap or two. “I didn’t play well in the tournament, but Betty already knew me from seeing me at other tournaments. We stayed in contact and she offered me the scholarship.”
Kaufmann first encountered Ackerhans at the 2010 Skandia Junior Open in May. She was trying to make connections with talented European golfers and was checking out a Swedish golfer at the time.
“I noticed Moritz, who was playing for the 18U German National Team,” Kaufmann said. “But after I left the tournament, I had no way to contact him.
“I was in Germany a couple months later recruiting (ex-DePaul golfer) Maximilian Mayer when Moritz came to a tournament. I said: ‘Didn’t you play in the Skandia Junior?’ He said yes. I asked him if he wanted to come to the U.S. and play golf at DePaul.”
He made an immediate impact, finishing second at the 2011 Spring Break Invitational at Delray Beach, Fla. in just the third tournament of his collegiate career. After shooting a 69 in the first two rounds, he finished with a 73 and fell one stroke behind the winner.
“It was the excitement of being here and the joy I had playing golf in Florida,” Ackerhans said. “I knew I was playing very well and was on top of my game.
“Golf is the kind of sport that it’s not going to be like that forever. Just enjoy the moment. It was my highest finish at DePaul.
“The guy who won it was playing in front of me. I saw him chip in an eagle, and I missed a few putts at the end.”
The smooth start belied the consternation from within.
“Coming to America was both exciting and frightening,” Ackerhans said. “It was exciting being in a professional environment while playing golf and focusing on my studies.
“It was a bit frightening because you don’t know how the team is going to be. I knew a little bit about America, but it wasn’t easy adjusting to the language. We were taught British-style English back in Germany, and I got used to my teacher’s voice. I didn’t understand accents or slang. When I came here, I wasn’t very good in English.
“I knew Maximilian Mayer and he was my anchor. He was the main reason I came on this adventure of going abroad and not knowing anyone.”
Ackerhans proved to be a quick study.
“Moritz joined us prior to the start of the 2011 spring season and was still trying to adjust to life in America,” Kaufmann said. “We put him in a dorm room where he didn’t know anybody, and he was still learning English. Yet, in less than two years, he has earned the respect of his teammates and been named a captain for this season.”
His golf game certainly made a strong impression on Kaufmann.
“His swing is just so smooth, tight and compact,” Kaufmann said. “He has a good putting stroke, and all his fundamentals are so solid.
“He just struck me. There’s no limit to what he can do. And, he is a strong competitor.
“Coaches from other teams will see him on the driving range and ask me: ‘Who is that guy?’”
“That guy” accomplished something over the summer that not too many young amateurs can claim. In a nine-hole “friendly,” Ackerhans was one stroke better than European PGA Tour pro Ben Parker.
“I got a chance to play nine holes with him this summer,” Ackerhans. “He’s British but lives in my area, and I got to meet him through a mutual friend. I asked if I could play nine holes with him at my local golf course. He shot even par and I shot one-under.
“The greens on my home course are pretty bad, but I know them from playing there so often. He struggled a little with them but didn’t let it bother him. Knowing those greens so well is the only way I came out with a better score.”
Ackerhans learned a few lessons while watching a tour pro go about his business.
“From that experience, I learned that the good players all have a certain rhythm to their game,” Ackerhans said. “Every time they hit the ball, it’s that same rhythm. I want to develop that consistency.
“No matter how good you are, everyone is going to have some bad holes. Accept it and give yourself more chances to recover.
“Tour pros have the mental ability to accept a double bogey and come right back with a birdie on the next hole. Once you get frustrated and mad at yourself, it’s going to get worse.”
Ackerhans will get an opportunity to use that new insight when the Blue Demons open their fall season Monday at the Ram Master Invitational in Fort Collins, Colo.
“Winning a tournament---that’s my goal and it’s attainable this fall,” Ackerhans said. “I try to enjoy the game and not put too much pressure on myself. I want to play like I did in Florida back in the day.
“My goals this season are to win a tournament and have fun in every round. I want to live and play the game. Learn to accept the bad holes and still have fun.”
Kaufmann is counting on Ackerhans to be one of the anchors on her team.
“Moritz had a good summer and has learned a lot since coming here,” Kaufmann said. “I’m expecting a lot from him. He could win some tournaments and be a leader on our team along with Russell Budd and Jan Juelicher. They will be the core of the team, our Three Musketeers.
“For him to grow and come closer to his potential, he needs to learn not to force it. Hit your shots and let the game come to you. We’re all guilty of trying to do too much on a golf course.
“After that second-place finish, he started to push a little bit. Greg Doherty did the same thing before he learned to let the game come to him.”
Kaufmann realizes her guys have set the bar pretty high.
“All these guys are trying to balance the pressure of academics and trying to get a win or top finish,” Kaufmann said. “They put a lot of pressure on themselves with academics after attaining the top team GPA among college golf teams in the nation three years in a row.
“I’ve seen Moritz struggle and still get the job done. Ben Westley was the same way. Moritz has the ability to take it below 70.
“Moritz is a great person who has respect for everyone along with a good sense of humor. He is pretty adaptable and cares about his teammates and coaches.”
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