WAVERLY — For any person, overcoming adversity of any kind can be difficult.
However, when one hears about the journey that Waverly standout Ben Flanders has been on, it certainly makes handling most setbacks more manageable in hindsight.
Flanders — who has starred in Waverly’s football, golf, soccer and baseball programs from an athletic standpoint — will tee it up for the Shawnee State men’s golf program this coming fall.
In doing so, Flanders brings a mindset that knows how to overcome adversity when it is in front of him.
“It’s an honor to be able to play golf at the next level,” Flanders said. “Knowing that I only started playing golf the summer going into my junior year, I’m pretty proud of myself to know that I’ve worked hard enough to get this opportunity.”
His successes at the high school level, however, weren’t accidental — or earned easily whatsoever.
Flanders played soccer and football to begin with, but after posting two goals and playing a big role on Waverly’s squad in his first two seasons on the soccer pitch, he had to stop — due to having two cardiac ablations.
To make matters worse, Flanders had blood clots on both ablations, forcing extensive medical work.
His life was in jeopardy.
However, instead of looking at the situation in a negative light, Flanders credits the circumstances he went through for not only saving his life, but guiding his future passion.
“Oddly enough, I believe that having the complications that I had was one of the better things to ever happen to me, once I got past the scary parts of being in the hospital and having IVs and different medications that is. However, because of it, I started playing golf, and being in the medical setting so much helped me decide that I wanted to work in the healthcare field. It’s given me a much different perspective on life. It was a very nerve-wracking process to go through, but I’m honestly glad that I did.”
Back in the saddle as a junior, Flanders turned to golf instead of soccer, while also continuing to contribute on special teams for Waverly’s football team as he had previously.
Competing in golf over the last two seasons, Flanders shot a 95 and then an 80 in the OHSAA Division II Southeast District sectionals to finish 30th and eighth respectively in those two years.
He accomplished the latter finish as a senior despite having to recover from a third cardiac ablation in July — while also achieving regular top-10 showings in Southern Ohio Conference outings.
Flanders ultimately finished 30th and 27th in OHSAA Division II Southeast District competition.
In football, Flanders was more limited in his kicking duties as a senior due to the previously-mentioned cardiac ablation, but still contributed on special teams, ultimately helping Waverly to a 33-10 record in his four seasons.
The Tigers won the SOC II championship in 2020, winning a 36-35 thriller over five-time defending division champion Wheelersburg in overtime — and making the OHSAA Division IV playoffs in each of his four years.
However, Flanders didn’t just contribute on the links or the gridiron.
In baseball, Flanders earned all-Southeast District honors in his final season with Waverly, with one of the highlights being a walkoff home run that gave the Tigers a 1-0 victory over Northwest in early May.
Flanders also earned all-Ohio Academic honors from the Ohio High School Baseball Coaches Association (OHSBCA).
He was also playing for the American Legion Post 142 Shockers program, with which he has made a big impact throughout the summer.
“Playing three sports all throughout high school made me be around teammates and coaches just about every day, no matter what,” Flanders said. “Being able to build relationships with everyone and take them outside of the sport that’s going on is something that I take pride in. I want everyone to know that I can be their friend, no matter who they are. I like to think that I’ve set that example for my teammates. I believe that sports, especially in high school, are more than just sports and are a great way to build relationships with your peers and coaches.”
At Waverly, Flanders credits former No. 1 Tiger golfer Conner Heffner — along with Waverly head coach J.R. Ramsey — for their patience and tutelage.
“Being at Waverly was great for me as a golfer,” Flanders said. “When I started my junior year, I was able to watch and play with Conner Heffner, who is not only one of the better golfers to come out of Waverly, but all of Southern Ohio. Being around him and being able to learn from him and Coach (J.R.) Ramsey really helped me start making big improvements to my game. Also, being able to compete in the Southern Ohio Conference with really talented opponents helped push me to be the best player that I could be. From my junior season to this past year, we lost five seniors and only had three returning players, so we were very young and inexperienced. I felt that it was good for me to take on a leadership role this year, and help introduce new players to the game while helping them improve.”
In Shawnee State, Flanders found Hopkins’ personality to be not only welcoming, but similar to Ramsey’s — which was a huge plus.
“I’m confident that we’ll be able to work together extremely well,” Flanders said. “His personality is very similar to my high school coach’s, which I believe is a very good thing.”
For Flanders, competing every single day — both on the golf course and in the classroom — is a must.
He’s certainly crossed significant hurdles to get to this point.
“Academically, I plan on getting my bachelor’s in exercise science and then pursuing an associate’s degree as a physical therapist assistant,” Flanders said. “I’ve participated in the college credit plus program at Shawnee State for the past two years, so I’m not new to the college workload. As far as golf is concerned, I hope to do whatever it takes to help us win. As cliche as it sounds, I just love to win and hate to lose.”
For more on the exercise science program at Shawnee State, please visit https://www.shawnee.edu/areas-study/college-professional-studies/health-sciences/exercise-science.
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