By SAMANTHA STALLINGS, Contributing Writer
Kentucky golf is on the move!
Note to the State of Kentucky, recent success of Kentucky golfers are giving the Bluegrass state something to write home about. In fact the recent rise has been building a presence for quite some time.
Did you know Kentucky programs are year in and year out some of most qualified Junior Golf programs in the country. Recent success of both University of Louisville and University of Kentucky qualifying and finishing strong in the NCAA National Championships on the west coast in Eugene, Oregon and the Bellarmine Knights making the Division 2 finals in Colorado gave local golfers something to boast about.
The University of Kentucky had six players listed from their home state on their roster and Bellarmine had seven. And this past May in the National Drive, Chip, and Putt competition Kentucky sent two juniors to Augusta to compete the weekend before The Masters.
Not only has Kentucky golf and Junior Golf collectively been on the rise in the past several years, but also one high school in Louisville, is able to claim home team status to one of the best golfers on the PGA Tour in Justin Thomas, currently ranked 41st in the world.
And let’s not forget a young man by the name of J.B. Holmes who is 19th in the world rankings. J.B. continues to be one of the longest drivers in the game, showing the world what a “Hometown Boy” from Kentucky can do on the global stage by recently finishing 3rd in The Open.
State champion, St. Francis Xavier High School will send two freshmen this fall to the University of Kentucky. The University of Kentucky will have four golfers from Louisville who all went to the same high school.
The University of Kentucky Wildcats finished 13th recently in the NCAA Championships with two Tigers in the line up competing for the National Championship.
St.X alumni, Stephen Stallings and Cooper Musselman along with David Snyder (Somerset) and Tyler “Chip” McDaniel (Manchester) were from Kentucky. This fall the University of Kentucky roster’a newest Tigers will be Allen Patrick Hamilton and Matt Liston.
Another tidbit about Stallings, Mussleman, Hamilton, and Liston — not only have they graduated from the same high school, but all have played junior golf at Big Springs Country Club in Louisville. Growing up as junior golfers, friends and even family as Musselman and Liston are first cousins.
The (St.X) Tigers won state in 2009 with Justin Thomas, who also attended St.X but went to the University of Alabama for college playing and capturing a National Championship for the Crimson Tide along with many other accolades in the college ranks. Thomas captured the individual title for St. Xavier in 2009.
Hunter Stewart from Lexington (LCA) won Boy’s High School State Championship the following year. Stewart went on to play for Vanderbilt and is currently playing professionally on the Web.Com Tour and excelled in the college ranks as well. The following year when Stallings, then a junior, joined the Tigers at State they came runners-up to Lexington Christian. In 2011 St.X won region but came in third in State, but Stallings would win the individual state title. St.X won region again in 2012 coming runners-up in state by just two strokes to West Jessamine.
The following years St. Xavier would regain the state championship led by Brendon Doyle, who currently is a leader playing his college golf at the University of Indiana.