Hard work paying off for golfing teens
MCHS team to solidify with junior talent
By Jessica Blomquist
Tiger Woods and Rocco Mediate were tied through 90 holes at the 108th U.S. Open on Monday, June 16. Woods won the championship after shooting par on the 91st hole in sudden death. Of the two professional golfers, 13-year-old Andrew Phillips of Rutledge compares himself with Tiger Woods because “we both practice really hard.”
Fellow local golfer, Zachary Bryant, 15, of Buckhead, said he was more like Mediate because “he’s just out there to have fun.”
Two different personalities.
One undeniable talent.
Both Phillips and Bryant have a busy schedule this summer. Phillips has already competed in 11 golf tournaments so far, and Bryant said he would play in at least one tournament a week for the rest of the summer. This week, both golfers are competing in the 59th annual Press Thornton Future Masters Tournament at the Dothan Country Club in Dothan, Ala.
Phillips played in the 13-14 age division on Sunday, June 22 through Tuesday, June 24. As of press time, he had scored 74 on the first day of the tournament.
Bryant will compete in the 15-18 age group on Thursday, June 26 through Saturday, June 28. Phillips said his greatest golf accomplishment so far took place three years ago at the Future Masters when, as a 10-year-old, he placed second in his division. “I was pumped,” he said. Phillips has been playing golf since he was very young, though his first set of clubs were made of plastic. He and his father also used to watch golf on television. “We used to sit at home and watch golf on TV and I got interested in it,” said Phillips. Bryant started playing golf with his dad when he was 10 years old.
Since moving to Buckhead in fifth grade, he has gotten to practice the sport even more while playing at Cuscowilla in Eatonton.
Bryant plays golf as much as possible, at least four times a week. Phillips plays every day, though that number is decreased to about four times a week during the school year. For both boys, golf is a priority. “Golf is No. 1,” said Phillips. “Family comes second.”
They have even quit playing other sports so they can focus solely on golf. “I have decided to concentrate strictly on golf now,” said Bryant who previously played baseball in high school. Phillips made the decision to solely play golf about four years ago.
“He could be mediocre at a lot of sports or exceptional at golf,” said Terry Phillips, Andrew’s father. Earlier this summer, Bryant competed in the Georgia State Golf Association’s Junior Championship in Augusta on June 16-18, where he had a final score of 236 for the three-day event and placed 22nd in his division.
Before that, both he and Phillips played in the Georgia PGA Junior Championship on June 2 through June 3 at the University of Georgia Golf Course in Athens. Bryant was ranked third in his division with a score of 75 at the Georgia PGA Junior Championship after the first day. On day two, Bryant scored a total of 80. He also scored third in the most birdies, with four.
“I had a bad first nine holes the second day and ended up with a score of 155 for both days,” Bryant said. Bryant and Phillips both competed against 65 others in the same division, comprised of those ages 13 to 15.
“It was very competitive,” Bryant said. Phillips scored 79 both days, for a combined score of 158. To prepare for tournaments, both golfers put in a lot of practice time. “To compete at the level they compete at, they really have to practice,” said Terry.
“A lot of kids come out and play, but they don’t practice.” Both Bryant and Phillips say they need to work on their putting to improve their short game.
“My long game is better right now than my short game,” Bryant said. “Right now I get off the tee-box well, but my putting is off and on.”
“I need to work on my putting stroke so I can shoot lower scores,” said Phillips. He has competed in tournaments since he was six years old, an estimated thirty a year, and has about 80 trophies and medals to show for it.
“They’re both driven to excel,” said Terry. Bryant and Phillips plan to compete on the Morgan County High School golf team next season. “The high school team is looking good because of those two,” Terry said.
Up next this summer, Bryant will compete in another Georgia PGA tournament on July 9 in Thomasville and the members-only Cuscowilla Junior Club Championship on July 24. Phillips is currently ranked No. 1 in the Georgia PGA Junior Tour, the Georgia Junior Golf Tour, and the Georgia State Golf Association Tour.
He will participate in the U.S.G.A.-sponsored U.S. Junior Amateur in Charleston, S.C. starting Thursday, June 26. On July 12-18, Phillips will follow in his role model’s footsteps by competing in the Callaway Golf Junior World Golf Championships in San Diego, Calif., which was previously won by Tiger Woods.