By Colin Bado, TSB Staff
Vincent Whaley knew that last month’s UIL 5A State Tournament would be the final tournament he would compete in as a member of the McKinney Boyd golf team. Fighting off rain and the best competition that the sate of Texas had to offer, and with nine holes remaining, Whaley needed to make a run if he wanted to remain in contention for the championship.
On the final day of play April 30, Belton’s Andrew Paysse led the field but Whaley had him in his sights. Whaley’s slew of birdies on holes one, two, four, five and six to reach 5-under after 15 holes brought him within one of the leader. However, despite Whaley’s perseverance and final push, he would finish in second place with a combined score of 139 over two days. Paysee won with a combined score of 138.
But it’s not over for Whaley. In fact, it’s just beginning.
A high school senior, Whaley prepares to embark on a new chapter in his life. While a state championship would have been the icing on the cake, the all-state selection looks forward to a collegiate golf career at Georgia Tech, where he has signed to play for the Atlantic Coast Conference school located in Atlanta.
“I’m going to miss my coach (Jerry Crumpton),” Whaley said. “I’m going to miss my best friend Branson (Davis), and the rest of team. Fortunately, Branson is going to the University of Georgia (located roughly 60 miles way in Athens). We’ll still be pretty close.”
High school golfers may not attain the public recognition that other athletes do, but Whaley’s prominence goes beyond that of McKinney and beyond Texas. He is ranked 22nd in the class of 2013 by the Junior Golf Scoreboard and 26th in the Golfweek/Sagarin Index.
Whaley began golfing while most of us were struggling to ride a bicycle with training wheels attached at the age of four. Born in Kentucky, the golf prodigy held his first club in 1999 at the Junior Golf Camp at Winston Trails Golf Club in Lake Worth, Fla.
In 2002, Whaley moved to McKinney, met Davis, and continued to pursue his dream of becoming a professional golfer. Since that time, Whaley has been taught by many prestigious golf pros throughout the area, but he feels that Cameron McCormick from Brook Hollow Country Club made the biggest difference in his game.
“I had a rough patch during freshman and sophomore year,” Whaley said. “I was playing really badly, and I was working with Randy Smith at the time. Smith was a good coach but his techniques are very traditional. I left, and started with Cameron. He has a modern approach and takes advantage of all the technology.”
McCormick was instrumental in Whaley’s success and helped create the foundation of Whaley’s work ethic. While attending McKinney Boyd and maintaining a 3.4 GPA, Whaley still manages to practice more than 30 hours a week, taking only the occasional Friday night off.
It obviously paid off. The talent that Whaley brings to the table is unquestionable. And Georgia Tech wasn’t the only school interested in Whaley. Florida, Texas Tech, Auburn, and Oklahoma were all under consideration, but the Yellow Jackets won his services. The Tech program is a regular at the NCAA Championship round, where it’s advanced nine consecutive years under the instruction of head coach Bruce Heppler. And in 2005, the program was rated the No. 1 collegiate golf program in the country by Golf Magazine.
Whaley said he liked the prestige of Tech’s program. He also said he likes Heppler, who “would send me emails showing me how success his players are and continue to be as pros. (And) the Georgia Tech players were great.” Tech recruits heavily in Texas and many of those golfers have turned professional.
The dream is simple. Whaley hopes one day to compete against his favorite golfer, Tiger Woods, or against former McKinney High golfer Hunter Mahan, who is a regular on the PGA Tour.
So he’s working to get there. Even though Whaley’s schedule is incredibly full, he said he finds what little spare time he has to hang out with his friends and make extra money caddying for TPC Craig Ranch and TPC Los Colinas.
Whaley’s exit is bittersweet. His leadership skills will be missed. So will his heart, which he displayed one time when he caddied for an opponent that had just beat him.
But his golf story, beyond McKinney, is just beginning its first chapter.