November 11, 2010 6:17:00 AM
The fire was dying.
After years of playing competitively, Caleb Westmoreland found the game of golf didn''t excite him the same way. For some reason, all of the practice and attention to detail wasn''t resulting in the kind of progress he felt he should have been making.
It took Westmoreland one year away from the sport to realize his true talent was in golf.
It didn''t take Westmoreland long after he returned to golf to discover the focus that helped him realize an important goal.
On Wednesday, the Heritage Academy senior signed a National Letter of Intent to play golf at Delta State, a Division II school in Cleveland.
Westmoreland credited Dr. Glenn Ellis, his mental game coach and a sports psychologist at Mississippi State, for allowing him find the comfort zone he needed to on the course that helped him re-ignite his passion for golf.
"I was as good as there was for 15 or 16 holes, but when it came down to crunch time most of the time I would do something, I would hit it out of bounds or hit it in the water, that would put me in situations I couldn''t win in," Westmoreland said. "He made me realize after you hit a bad shot what are you going to do. You have to overcome adversity. You have to relax, stay focused, and overcome the adversity. Ever since I have done that it has been like my eyes opening. It has helped me so much."
Westmoreland admits he had a reputation as a player for getting fired up. He said Ellis had him take a test about his personality and then worked with him on concentration and staying within himself.
Ellis was the mental game coach for Terry Westmoreland, Caleb''s father, when he was in Little League.
As a result, Westmoreland quickly worked the rust off his game after a year away from the sport. Westmoreland also started to work again with V.J. Trolio, a teaching professional at Old Waverly Golf Club in West Point. The mental and physical approach proved to be the right mix that had Westmoreland feeling good about his game.
"(Ellis) has given me a level head and has helped me work on the things that really matter," Westmoreland said. "He has helped me reach my potential to this point.
"Trolio has been like a dad to me. He has been amazing. He has caddied for me in tournaments. I owe a lot of my golf game to what he knows."
As a reminder, Westmoreland said Ellis gave him a little red bead that he keeps in his pocket. He said Ellis told him to rub that bead at times when he feels himself drifting mentally. He said it has helped him to learn to forget a bad shot and to rejuvenate his approach.
Westmoreland, who also considered Meridian Community College, capitalized on the improvement at a golf tournament this summer in Greenville. Westmoreland''s performance impressed Delta State men''s golf coach Sam Dunning, who encouraged him to take an official visit to the school.
Westmoreland said he liked the fact Delta State has six seniors in the program this season, which gives him the chance to earn playing time immediately. He also enjoyed the visit he took a few months ago and felt right at home.
"Everything I saw was outstanding," Westmoreland said. "I could just see myself there."
Heritage Academy golf coach Ed Lott said Westmoreland took time to find his game when he returned to the program for his junior season. He said Westmoreland improved each tournament to him in position to attract the interest of college coaches.
"He loves to practice and hit balls," Lott said. "He has all of the talent in the world. He just has to take it from the range to the golf course."
Lott expects big things from Westmoreland in March when the Patriots hit the greens. He said this season should help Westmoreland improve his confidence and prepare him for a higher level of competition at Delta State.
"It is not surprising," Lott said. "He just needs to go out and play. That will come with each tournament. He will get better and better."
Westmoreland is eager to apply what he has learned to a full season of high school competition. He knows things will be even tougher when he gets to Delta State, but it is a challenge he is ready to take on now that he is armed with the mental game that will help him remain focused.
"If you''re not mentally focused and ready to play, you''re not going to win tournaments and you''re not going to be competitive," Westmoreland said. "I think I have an edge in that. I am sure everyone has the will to win, but I have the will to prepare to win."
Adam Minichino is the Sports Editor for The Commercial Dispatch.