April 8, 2009
Adam Minichino - [email protected]
Easton Key used to be a distraction on the golf course.
Unable to control his emotions, the Lamar School golfer was apt to throw his clubs if a shot didn''t break his way.
The outburst would unravel even the most successful round and force his parents to threaten to or to take away his golf clubs.
But Key has changed.
If something goes wrong these days, he pauses, takes a breath, and chalks the experience up to the highs and lows of the game of golf.
Key exhibited that new-found maturity Tuesday when he earned medalist honors with a 73 to lead Lamar School to the team championship at the East Mississippi Community College Invitational at Columbus Country Club.
Lamar School shot a 311 to beat Oak Grove (328), Pillow Academy and Madison Central (329), and the rest of a 10-team field that featured public and private schools from across the state.
Allen Massengill (78) and Chad Bounds and Daniel Finan (80s) rounded out the team''s scorers on a windy day that forced the golfers to keep their focus.
Key''s composure helped him accomplish that goal. He went -5 in the final seven holes to wrap up the title.
"I used to throw clubs," said Key, a junior. "I have gotten my clubs taken away because I threw them. I just realized I didn''t want them taken away and that I needed to keep them in my hands."
Now instead of throwing his clubs after a bad shot or a miss, Key will put his head in a towel and let his emotions loose so he can start fresh.
Lamar School coach Mac Barnes said the team title is the school''s first this season. He said 311 is a good score for his day on a typical day, but he said it was "great score" Tuesday''s considering the elements.
"Our guys work hard," Barnes said. "They know what it is about. There is a real tradition of golf at Lamar. We had gone the first three tournaments and not won, and I think everybody knew we needed to play a little better. I am real proud of the guys today."
Barnes said Key has gotten his confidence back after struggling with his putting. He said Key''s success has come because he doesn''t think about things too much.
Key said he has listened to coaching and to his parents and watched video of his play in an attempt to adopt a calmer, more focused mind-set that has helped him transform his game.
Key said his chipping started to fail him and played a role in a double-bogey on the par-5 No. 7.
With things possibly ready to turn the wrong way, Key refocused and concentrated on hitting the greens. He said he didn''t believe he missed a green the rest of the way.
Key rebounded with back-to-back birdies after the double bogey to get back on track.
"Every hole is its own little tournament," Key said. "I just have to let it go. Things like that are going to happen and I have to accept that and move on to the next hole."
Key credits his maturity for helping him realize mistakes will happen and putting them behind him. He said he used to play really fast and thought he had to play perfect.
When he didn''t, he got mad and the clubs would go flying.
"Back then, if I had one bad hole my parents (who used to follow him on the golf course) would say I was done for the day because I would get so mad," Key said. "Now I know if I have a bad hole I can still come back and do good like I did today."
The event was part of an effort to help grow golf in the state of Mississippi.
EMCC coach Dale Peay, whose team competed Monday and Tuesday at the MACJC State Tournament at Kirkwood National in Holly Springs, said golf is growing throughout the state. He said his team, which finished third behind Copiah-Lincoln Community College and Gulf Coast Community College at the tournament for its best finish, is just one indication of how the growth of high school golf is translating to the next level.
"Four or five years ago there weren''t but two competitive teams in the state," Peay said. "This year, there were six teams within seven strokes of the lead after the first day (at the state tournament). It is a lot more competitive and the players are getting better and better."
Peay attributes the sport''s growth to better coaching, to greater interest, and to bigger commitments from schools and players.
"A lot more coaches are working with players at the high school level, where in the past it was find somebody to take them to a match," Peay said. "Now they have people who are working with them It just filters on up to us."
Caledonia (339), Heritage Academy (343), and New Hope (353) also competed.
Zac Taylor (79), Zack Bailey (83), Colt Wallace (86), Evan McElrath (91), and Trent Humber (98) played for Caledonia.
Will Swedenburg (77), Bryce Rader (83), Cade Lott (90), Jase Dalrymple (93), and Hunter Brown (94) played for Heritage Academy.
Blake King (82), Chase Taylor (83), Austin Fitch (88), Chaz Robinson (100), and Matt Thrash (114) played for New Hope.
Adam Minichino is the Sports Editor for The Commercial Dispatch.