Hockey starts first but finishes second

Mason Dirlam tees off into the California sun at the Pure Insurance Championship.
St. Joseph High School's Mason Dirlam has had a hockey stick in his hand since first grade. He's a defenseman for the LSJ Warriors, playing his senior year.

Hockey starts first but finishes second

By Tom O’Neill

            Mason Dirlam has had a hockey stick in his hands since first grade. Since then, the winter sport has taken him and his family all over Michigan and Indiana.

            None of his family had played hockey, he explained. “It was in kindergarten or first grade they sent flyers home from school about joining a youth league. I told my parents I wanted to give it a try.”

            There was house hockey at Howard Ice Arena, Freeze (a youth travel league), followed by JV and then varsity the past two seasons as a member of the LSJ Warriors. The Warriors play in the Indiana State High School Hockey League’s Michiana Conference. The current team includes high school players from Lakeshore, St. Joseph, Dowagiac and Lake Michigan Catholic. LSJ won the conference title in 2017 and is currently ranked sixth in the state.

            Dirlam is a defenseman for the Warriors. His primary responsibility is to keep the opposing team from taking shots on his goal. Defensemen are usually involved in getting the puck cleared and up ice to the forwards.

            Six players have moved on to collegiate hockey after competing as a Warrior. Dirlam will be taking a different path. He also had a golf club in his hand during the summer months. It started just hitting golf balls around the yard, but around 12 years old the golf bug bit him.           

            He became involved in The First Tee program, worked on his game and became a member of St. Joseph’s golf team. Last season he finished with a three handicap, playing most of his golf at Berrien Hills and Harbor Shores while caddying at Lost Dunes.

            Dirlam never gave much thought to his two sports being compared to Adam Sandler’s portrayal of Happy Gilmore. “The swing is a lot closer than you think. The slap shot has a lot of the same motions, but the game style is different. You don’t have time to dwell on a bad shot. You’re moving on.”

            In the summer of 2017 something special happened. Dirlam, along with St. Joseph’s Cailey Rooker and Lakeshore’s Logan Essig were invited to participate in the Pure Insurance Championship as part of The First Tee. Eighty-one juniors would join Champion Tour players at Pebble Beach Golf Links in California.

            Dirlam was paired with professional Paul Goydas, the duo making it to the final round on Sunday. He said not only were his eyes glued to the AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am recently, but to the Boca Raton Championship on the Champions Tour.

            Dirlam hopes to reunite with several of the pros, including Goydas, when they return to Harbor Shores at the end of May for the Kitchen Aid Senior PGA. “I’m hoping to be a standard bearer for Paul’s group. These guys like Silver Beach Pizza and want me to make reservations.” He mentioned getting together with Kevin Sutherland and Steve Fleisher as well. “It’s pretty cool that I know these guys now.”

            Have any schools expressed an interest in him? “There have been several Division III and one Division II schools,” noted Dirlam. He’s leaning toward Grand Valley State, despite the Lakers not having any scholarship spots available currently. He’s focused on becoming a scratch golfer this summer and a walk-on for GVS.

            Academically, he’s looking at the medical field or business side of golf. Is hockey anywhere in his future? “I like to be around kids. In the winter you can’t do much so maybe I’ll help out. I used to ref hockey and it was lots of fun.”