You could say Van Buren’s Ethan Rauser became the accidental left-handed golfer—a mirage in a sea of mostly right-handed hackers.
Of course, you could say Rauser became an adventitious left-handed swinging baseball player, too.
It all happened when he was a toddler.
“I’m truly right-handed, but I swing my (baseball) bat and golf clubs left-handed,” Rauser said. “My grandpa (Jim Dart), when he retired, he picked up golf and started to love it, and he took me with him to the course. I started mirroring everything he did.”
As he was learning to tie his shoes, ride a bike and bait a fishhook, Rauser learned to swing a golf club, too. He’s one of hundreds of First Tee of Fort Smith success stories.
But Ethan Rauser also developed as a steady baseball player, too, earning a reputation as a strong defensive catcher. It’s not impossible to do both golf and baseball simultaneously.
But if you ask Rauser’s advice, he’ll give you a thumbs down.
“Last year, at the beginning of my junior season, I was hitting in the cages, around November,” he said. “When I’d come back from golf, I’m popping out to left field every time. It’s really tough to fix.
“Because I’m so used to my golf swing, it’s hard to keep them separate sometimes.”
Tagged by Dart with the nickname of “Scoot,” for the way he scooted about as a baby, Rauser isn’t the most well-known name on the 7A-West golf circuit. Not yet, anyway.
“Golf is actually the very sport I played,” Rauser said. “I started when I was 3 years old.”
Dart, 77, took Rauser with him to the golf course. Soon, he was teeing off at First Tee of Fort Smith.
Rauser didn’t join Van Buren golf coach Randy Bagwell’s squad until last fall.
“Last year, I was No. 7 on the team,” Rauser said. “I went to a few varsity matches. I wasn’t amazing, but I was OK.”
A month ago, Rauser was finishing up his American Legion run with the Fort Smith Sportsman. Then he spent two weeks traipsing across Europe.
Then one day he was standing on the 18th fairway at River Valley Golf Club.
“The thing about this year, he got behind the eight-ball a little bit because of baseball, and then he went to Europe and missed the first week of practice,” Bagwell said. “(But) I’m confident he’ll start coming around. He definitely gave us some depth.”
“I played legion ball with Kinner (Brasher) and Jake (Melton), but as soon as we lost out (state tournament), I hung up my gloves and I picked up my golf clubs,” Rauser said. “I won’t pick up a bat again until golf is over.
“The two very much mess with each other.”
Two weeks ago, Rauser played his first fall golf match against Alma. He shot a 92.
“I had a rough front nine; I had a couple of holes I didn’t do well on,” Rauser said. “I shot a 52 on the front nine, and then shot 40 on the back nine.”
“The good thing about him, he’s got such a good attitude,” Bagwell said. “Some kids get down and that hurts their whole round. The other day he started out bad at Alma and hung in there, and the back nine he started coming around.
“Not too many kids can do that.”
As it turns out, Rauser is Bagwell’s lone left-swinging golfer this fall. But he’s not his first.
Truth is, southpaws have a bit of an advantage over right-handers.
“It’s hard to find lefty (golf) gloves,” Rauser said. “(But) sometimes I have the advantage to right-handers. Courses are built to challenge the right-handed golfer. The way I can slice a ball, it’s an advantage to me on different fairways.”
“A lot of people slice that are right-handed, so it’s an advantage to be a lefty,” Bagwell said. “It depends on how most people hit the ball.”
As strong of a student as he is an athlete, Rauser keeps a busy schedule. Dart’s showing no signs of slowing down, either.
Retired at 65, then back to work because he had grown tired of talking to his dog, Dart and Rauser still manage to squeeze in a few rounds of golf every now and then.
“He beats me all the time,” Dart said. “I used to shoot in the low 80s, and sometimes in the high 70s, but he’s a really good golfer—and he’s a baseball player, too.
“A few days ago, we played 18 at Bella Vista,” Rauser said. “We go to the driving range a lot. He (Dart) drives a truck, so whenever he’s in town we try to go to the course.”
Van Buren will host Russellville at 3:30 p.m. Monday at Eagle Crest. TNS