With team sports off limits, high school baseball players are turning to golf
This is the fourth piece in a five-part Bamberger Briefly series about people returning to golf. You can read the first installment (golf’s new safety measures) here; the second (golf in Minnesota) here; and the third (golf in Massachusetts) here.
This is Drew Doty’s identity, in a nutshell: sophomore stud baseball player at Franklin (Ind.) High School. Third baseman; cleanup hitter. Big lifter. On April 2, his father’s phone pinged with bad news. They were in the parking lot of a golf course.
“I’m sorry, son,” the father said. “You won’t be having a baseball season this year.”
The father, Bill, is the athletic director at Franklin High. There had been a hope that a short season and playoff could be arranged. And in a single phone missive, that hope had vanished.
“I was sad and confused,” Drew told me in a phone interview. “In a million years, I never would have guessed something like this could happen.”
Baseball is Drew’s thing, seven days a week. Derek Jeter. The St. Louis Cardinals. The Indianapolis Indians, Triple-A affiliate of the Pittsburgh Pirates. Sneaking peeks at the minor-leaguers at Powerhouse, a baseball training facility in Franklin.
Golf was something he did now and then, with his dad, or with his buddies on long summer nights. The family lives on a golf course called Hillview.
His father encouraged him to play more golf. Ted Bishop, owner of the Legends Golf Club in Franklin (and a former president of the PGA of America), encouraged him to play more golf. His golf-playing buddies encouraged him to play more golf. And he has.
Fifty rounds, in fact, since April 2. (“There’s not much to do right now,” Bishop said.) Drew could always hit the full shots, but his play was erratic. Now he’s breaking 80 regularly.
“It’s all about putting,” Drew said. From the mouths of children. “Mr. Bishop gave me a putting lesson.”
Don’t hold back, kid: WHAT DID HE SAY?!?!
“Keep your putter head low,” Drew said.
Drew Doty is not, by any means, the only kid in Indiana who has transitioned from baseball to golf in this odd spring. The pandemic has claimed the spring high school golf season across the state. On almost no notice, Bishop and friends created a senior open. Not for the 50-and-over crowd. This is a two-day tournament in early June for seniors in high school who had their season stolen from them. Drew Doty knows more than a few of the seniors in the 120-player field at Legends. The cost is nothing. A local bank, Merchants Bank of Indiana, contributed $5,000 for the event, to cover the green fees and lunches. The kids pay nothing. Bishop went to high school with the bank’s chairman, Mike Petrie. One call got it done.
It takes a village, to get through a pandemic.
“My dad always says, ‘Play what you want, but golf is the game for a lifetime,’” Drew said. “You don’t see people playing baseball when they’re 70.”
Drew is 54 years from that. Golf is his main sport now but only by default. Next spring, he hopes to play baseball and golf for Franklin High. It takes some juggling but it can be done.
He’ll be 17, with young legs, a fast bat and a putting tip that has stood the test of time.
Michael Bamberger welcomes your comments at Michael_Bamberger@golf.com.