May 8, 2014 10:53:13 AM
Konrad Vernon has harbored dreams of playing golf in college for a long time.
But the Columbus High School senior has his priorities in line and understands his academics come first, which is why Mississippi College appeared to be a great fit for him. Not only was the school in Clinton relatively close to home, it also gave him a chance to pursue a career in the medical field, possibly the dental program.
On Wednesday, Mississippi College became an even more attractive place for Vernon to spend the next four years after he signed grant-in-aid paperwork to play golf at the school.
Vernon, who spent his freshman and sophomore years at Heritage Academy, has been a one-player golf team for the past two seasons at Columbus High. He said he visited Mississippi College in the fall and enjoyed the campus and had a two-hour talk with men's golf coach John McMath. He said McMath assured him academics would be his main focus, which suited Vernon just fine.
"I just love the school," Vernon said. "They have a great medical program. To be able to play golf and do the medical program is really what made me want to go there."
Vernon has stayed active in the North Mississippi Coca-Cola Junior Tour. Last year, he won the tour championship of the 16- to 18-year-old age division at the Ole Miss Golf Course in Oxford. Vernon drained putts of 20 and 30 feet en route to the title, backing up his belief that putting is the strength of his game. After another year of play, Vernon said his ability to hit the ball straight and to chip also are strengths of his game and have helped him realize a goal he has had for a long time. He admits playing on a team of one and having his father, Gerald, be his coach has been challenging. At Heritage Academy, he was part of a state championship team in which the players motivated each other. Vernon said he tried to keep golf fun the past two years knowing his progress eventually would help him extend his career into college. Vernon realized the opportunity in the fall on his visit to Mississippi College when he made a verbal commitment to Mississippi College.
"It was a good feeling to know I didn't have to worry about college, or where I wanted to go, and that I had a great school to go to," Vernon said. "I was able to focus on school and not have to worry about the college process."
This season, Vernon, who has a 3.8 handicap, said he consistently shot in the mid to high 70s. He said he kept McMath up to date on his scores at each tournament and is excited about his chance to play at the next level.
"I have been hoping for a golf scholarship really since the first year I started playing high school golf, which was the eighth grade," Vernon said. "From that point, I was working, hopefully, to going to play college golf and getting a scholarship.
"I have been able to handle the pressure when I needed to. I worked at (handling the pressure). I keep my calm pretty well on the course. If I hit a bad shot, I don't get upset I just keep going and push through it and play as well as I can."
Vernon said the experience he gained playing on the North Mississippi Coca-Cola Junior Tour helped prepare him for the next level. He acknowledges the transition to college golf will be tough. Adding his academic load to that will make it doubly tough.
"I take my grades seriously and I want to make good grades," said Vernon, who has a waited grade-point average of 4.3 and is in the International Baccalaureate program at Columbus High. "Being able to play with different competitors at another level will make me better. I am excited to play at that level."
Follow Dispatch sports editor Adam Minichino on Twitter @ctsportseditor.
Adam Minichino is the Sports Editor for The Commercial Dispatch.
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