Receiving scholarship gifts made college choice easy
Honestly, I don’t remember playing in my first golf tournament. My dad was my caddie, and from the pictures, I wore an appropriate sharp, green plaid outfit. All I know is that I won youngest player — I was only 3 years old. My parents tell me that my biggest challenge was just staying awake that early in the morning. Actually, I had just started to talk. Some of my first words were Eye on ball. My speaking skills may have been lacking, but my golf skills were up to par.
So how does a kid who can’t talk learn to play golf? He copies his dad. My mom believed that a father should also bond with his children, so Saturdays became one of those days for my dad and me. In order for my dad to golf, he would bring me along to the course, a Par 3 course called Family Golf. It was there that I would learn the game. I followed my dads every move so that I could be just like the pros. One day, I would pretend to be John Daly and the next day Jack Nicklaus. I wanted to be just like what I called the real guys. I had only one club — a cut down 7-iron with holes drilled in the face to lighten the weight. After all, a 3 year old can barely lift a club, let alone swing one. I soon wanted to go golfing whenever my dad went, so I was eventually given a set of my own.
When I was 4, I made my first birdie. The owner of Family Golf contacted our local newspaper, and they did a huge story about my so-called success. No one could understand why I was so infatuated with the game at such a young age. I would practice for hours, including even in our basement. Living in Michigan and its winter wonderland makes practice very difficult. I am probably one of the few golfers who can play in the snow and even putt on ice.
I started winning local tournaments. I played up an age division, then 2 or more. I started winning by large margins. I then tried state level tournaments, which I won. Soon I was on to the national stage, where I also won several times. Golf had become my passion.
As I was playing on the national junior circuit, I was discovered by Coach Haas, and he invited me to visit Wake to see if I might be interested in playing for the Demon Deacons. I was recruited by many schools and visited many campuses. On my first visit here, however, I fell in love with the place. The campus was beautiful, the coaching staff was great, and the academic background of the university was equally impressive. Not to mention this is the place where Arnold Palmer and a host of other of famous players have attended college. Finally, Coach Haas told me that it almost never snows here. He was right about that by the way … well, at least, most of the time.
My decision to attend Wake Forest has been rewarded many times over. I have been challenged intellectually, spiritually, and athletically. My eyes have been opened to new ideas and concepts; I have made friendships that will last a lifetime; and my faith in the Lord has never been stronger. Being part of the Wake Forest golf team has enabled me to improve as a player to the point where I was able to reach the pinnacle of amateur golf this past summer and compete for my country as part of the Walker Cup team.
One of the great friendships I made here at Wake was with Webb Simpson, who graduated from Wake in 2008. Webb is now on the PGA Tour, and participated on the Walker Cup team in 2007. Webb encouraged me to work hard, and told me I was going to make the team in 2009. He made this pronouncement with such confidence, I had to believe him. With the help of Coach Haas and my dad, I steadily improved to the point where I was selected by the United States Golf Association as one of the top ten amateurs in the Country.
My Walker Cup experience was fantastic beyond my imagination. It was such a great honor to represent my country and to be part of a team that won convincingly against a tough squad from Great Britain and Ireland.
I can say with complete confidence that had I not attended Wake, I would not have played on that team. Making the team required more than skill. It required dedication, commitment and confidence, the intangibles that Wake instills in all of its students. To set your goals high, and strive to achieve them is commonplace here, but not everywhere. This environment of excellence was what Webb assumed to be true, and what I learned from experience can be true. To say I am extremely grateful for what Wake has provided to me would be a great understatement.
One of the things that my mom always taught me, after I finally learned to talk, was to always say thank you. I appreciate this opportunity to extend that thanks in person. I could not have attended Wake Forest University without the assistance of the scholarship donors. The Buddy Worsham scholarship has enabled me to attend this great university, and I am in your debt for the opportunity you have given me. It is an honor not only to play on the team that Arnold Palmer played for, but to be here on the scholarship that he created is very special. Again, I sincerely appreciate your assistance.