May 17, 2013 12:33:34 PM
Evan McElrath has thought about playing golf in college for a long time.
McElrath admits the process has been stressful at times with college coaches watching from the sidelines. He also has worked his ways through the ups and downs of every-day life that make it difficult to focus on golf.
But McElrath never lost sight of the dream of competing at the next level.
"I just have stayed confidence and stayed focused," McElrath said. "I have worked a lot (for five or six years) with (Old Waverly Golf Club instructor) V.J. Trolio. He has been there for me and done a lot for me."
On Thursday, the work the Heritage Academy senior put in with Trolio paid off as he, family members, and friends celebrated his decision to ply golf at Delta State University. McElrath committed to DSU men's golf coach Sam Dunning months ago. He said he will make it official by signing a National Letter of Intent very soon.
McElrath credits Trolio for being an "awesome" teacher. He said he has helped with his short game, his long irons, his swing, and his mental approach. Through it all, McElrath always believed he would sign to play golf somewhere. He stayed in touch with Dunning and thanked the coach for giving him an opportunity to prove he can play the next level.
McElrath said the patience he showed during the recruiting process is something he also has learned on the golf course. This season, he feels he didn't play his best golf, but "hung in there" and was proud he played a key role in helping Heritage Academy wins its second state championship in three years. McElrath and Cade Lott shots 75s earlier this month to help Heritage Academy post a team score of 311 to take the Mississippi Association of Independent Schools Class AAA Overall State title at Hattiesburg Country Club.
"You can't win end it a better way," McElrath said. "I couldn't have picked a better team to win a state championship with."
Heritage Academy coach Ed Lott watched McElrath put himself on the right path to realizing his dream. He said McElrath was a leader with Cade Lott from the start of the season and was always in the mix to be medalist.
"He has a great work ethic," Lott said. "He has no problem practicing, whether it is his short game or his long game. That is the reason he is going to do Delta State because of his work ethic."
Lott feels Delta State will be a perfect fit. He feels McElrath, who transferred from Caledonia High School, has the potential to lift his game to compete at the next level. He said McElrath has shown he can juggle academics and athletics at Heritage Academy, and he believes he will make the transition to Division II.
"He knew from the get-go what he wanted to do, and I am very proud of him," said Lott, who coached McElrath for four years. "I have seen his golf game improve and his maturity rise. He set out a goal to do it and he did it."
McElrath understands the bar will be raised once he gets to DSU. He knows the level of competition and the expectations will be higher on and off the course. He said his goal is to travel with the team as much as possible to compete in tournaments. Typically, five to nine players compete for a team on trips, depending on the distance. It's a challenge McElrath has been waiting a long time to realize. Now that it is nearly completed, he plans to make the most of his chance.
"I think the doors have opened up because they haven't had the best season and a lot of seniors are graduating, so it is going to be open for anyone to get in there and make some tournaments and be on the team," McElrath said. "I am really looking forward to it."
Adam Minichino is the Sports Editor for The Commercial Dispatch.