A D-1 Golfer?
Templeton Has The Potential
Posted: October 3, 2012
HHS’s Kyle Templeton finished third in R-III on Monday. (Photo by Nikki Fox / DN-R)
There soon could be two more.
It’s no surprise that Spotswood High School senior Robbie Failes, a four-time district Player of the Year, is expected to be the fifth of Rogers’ pupils to end up on a D-I golf team.
The potential sixth one, though, is probably less familiar to fans.
Harrisonburg junior Kyle Templeton, known mostly as the Valley District player who often finishes second behind Failes, has set a goal to be a D-I golfer, and Rogers thinks it’s a realistic objective.
“You can tell from watching other players come through and that kind of thing, Division I golf is a heck of a goal to set and to achieve. Unfortunately, it’s been a fairly rare thing over the years for local golfers to achieve that,” Rogers said. “Kyle is on that track.
“He’s one of the best putters I’ve ever seen come through the Valley District. He’s just got great feel, especially on the greens. His length has come on, so he hits the ball far enough, I believe, to play D-I. It’s probably just a matter of taking the scores down just one more notch.”
If his career path through high school holds for another year, one notch is certainly realistic.
Templeton, the son of Tom and Becky Templeton, has already accomplished something this year he’s never done: make the Group AA state tournament.
After missing the final qualifying spot in a playoff hole in last season’s Region III tournament, Templeton placed third with an even-par 71 at Monday’s regional match to easily make the cut by five strokes.
“It was tough [missing states last year], but I learned more from it than it hurt me, of course,” Templeton said Tuesday at Lakeview Golf Course, where this year’s state tournament will be played next week. “I looked at it as a positive thing. I needed to work a little harder at just tournament situations and pressure situations – like that playoff was.”
That he did. He qualified for the Virginia State Golf Association’s Junior Stroke Play Championship for the first time this summer, finishing 10th with a 1-under over three rounds. He also competed on a statewide high school circuit known as the College Prep Golf Tour, finishing fourth in two tournaments in March and May.
“I think it’s really paid off for me,” Templeton said.
To the point where he’s now occasionally beating his good buddy Failes. He won three Valley matches this fall (Failes won four), and lost the district Player of the Year honor only by two cumulative shots after shooting a stroke better than Failes at the district tournament.
“The way he plays, I just want to be right there with him,” Templeton said of Failes. “I obviously don’t want to lose. And he just kind of pushes me to be better and better.”
Known as “Slinky” in part because of his lean physique when he was younger, that nickname doesn’t describe his frame anymore. Templeton estimated that he was 120 pounds as a freshman, and said in June of 2011 that he was 140; now, he’s a muscular 160 while standing 6 feet tall, thanks in part to spending plenty of time in the weight room.
That’s helped increase his driving distance to around 285 yards, compared to roughly 240 when he was a freshman – and he’s hitting it straighter, too. Add that to his putting, and you can see why he’s been just a hair behind Failes this season.
And, HHS coach Mike Ruckman said, Templeton, who Rogers said was “pretty raw” when he first encountered a scrawny eighth grader three years ago, has plenty more potential to tap into.
“I think Kyle is still green, he’s still learning the game. He’s coming into his body; he grew so fast,” Ruckman said. “…We haven’t seen how good he’s going to get. He’s one of those kids who’s going to blossom after high school.”
But he’ll probably have to blossom just a little more before high school ends if he wants to play D-I.
The key, which both Templeton and Rogers agreed on, will be refining the area he was strongest at earlier on in high school: his short game, and particularly his pitching game.
“Just being able to hit the ball with different trajectories and different amounts of spin, and exercise a level of mastery on short-range shots,” Rogers said. “As you get to a more elite level as Kyle is doing, that’s kind of what separates guys.”
The others who’ve separated themselves into D-I players under Rogers’ guidance are Tim Driver (James Madison, SHS graduate), Kandace Dean (Radford women’s team, SHS), Stewart Surratt (Longwood, HHS) and Whitney Rhodes (North Carolina-Wilmington, Staunton native).
Golf isn’t the only activity Templeton is good at. He also plays baseball – he even quit golf to play baseball for a few years until seventh grade, and said he’s considering suiting up for the Blue Streaks this spring. He’s also an accomplished duck hunter, deer hunter and fisherman, an activity he often shares with Failes and other local golfers.
Templeton also enjoys others’ golfing success. Rogers described one instance at a lower-level tournament when Templeton intentionally missed a putt on the 18th green so that his playing partner could win his first tournament.
“I watched him basically throw a putt to give this kid a chance to win,” Rogers said. “That’s not something you see in this day and age very often. He’s just very sportsmanlike and conducts himself immaculately.”
Immaculate will probably have to describe his golf next year if he wants to achieve his goal of being a D-I player.