By TIM BIRNEY
Valley Sports Report
TIOGA CENTER — With his senior season on the links is in jeopardy, Tioga senior Sam Taylor recently signed a letter-of-intent to play collegiately at Methodist University in Fayetteville, N.C. beginning in the fall.
Taylor had other options but his first visit to Methodist made it a pretty easy choice.
“I visited Methodist, Coastal Carolina, and Campbell University, and Methodist felt like the University of Tioga,” said Taylor. “It’s small, there are only 1,500 kids on campus.”
He said the golf facilities at Methodist influenced his decision.
“I walked into a room for my official visit, and all the blinds were closed. It was 80 degrees, and a bright sunny day — Carolina weather. I thought, ‘this is kind of weird,’” noted Taylor. “Brock White, the head of recruiting, opens the blinds and all I see is this huge practice facility.
“They have a short-game area, a driving range that’s 400 yards long, three putting greens, and a bunch of chipping greens — it was unreal,” continued Taylor.
“They also have two indoor putting labs, and two indoor simulators in case it’s 50 degrees in January,” he laughed.
“That’s how I started my visit,” added Taylor. “Then, I went to the educational side, and it just felt like home.”
Taylor expects fierce competition just to get playing time.
“It’s a very good program,” he said. “They just played in an invitational, and the team total was 2-under.
“One positive thing is the coaches carries an A and a B team — 20 players,” he noted. “The B team played in a tournament recently and they were 20-over as a team.
“Definitely my first year, and maybe my second year I’ll probably be on that B team, but I’m willing to accept that challenge, and work my way up to the A team,” Taylor added.
Taylor, a three-time state qualifier for the Tigers, knows he has work to do, and knows it will be a different game with the move South.
“I think I just need to work on my consistency.
“My short game right now is just where I want it to be,” said Taylor. “I’m hitting the ball well now for March in New York, but getting down there and getting use to that grass is going to make it a totally different game — the short-game aspect is going to be totally different.
“I think I can definitely prove to the coaches I’m worthy, but stepping up to the next level — making putts and doing things the professional do is really where I need to go,” he added.
Taylor’s not sure if growing up in the Northeast is a disadvantage or not.
“Well, there’s no one else on the team from north of Virginia,” laughed Taylor.
“I won’t really know if it’s a disadvantage until I get down there, but this winter I’ve put a lot of time hitting into a net, and putting into a little cup that spits the ball back out at me — it’s reps, which is about all you can do up here in the winter,” he noted.
Taylor said he’s not concerned about moving so far from home.
“It’s funny,” smiled Taylor. “My mom is retiring, and she’s going with me.
“My uncle and aunt are down there, and I have a cousin who plays at the University of Mount Olive, and they’re 40 minutes away from Methodist,” he noted. “If I ever need anything, I have options.”
Taylor doesn’t know if he’ll have a senior season or not, but believes the coaching he’s received at Tioga have helped him reach his lifelong dream of playing collegiately.
“No matter what happens, I’ve had an unbelievable golf career as a Tioga Tiger.
“Joe Robinson, Josh Robinson, and Dave Sickler have guided me to where I am today, and have made it possible to pursue my golf career,” said Taylor.
Tioga High School Principal Josh Roe said Taylor has worked hard to get where he’s at, especially academically.
“Sam has been an outstanding student-athlete for us.
“He challenges himself and takes the hardest courses as part of our New Visions program,” said Roe.
“He manages his course work, along with playing two sports a year.
“He’s moving forward in life with the life lessons he learned (at Tioga), which are definitely going to serve him while he’s going through his college years.
“He’s a kid who has overcome adversity. He’s made mistakes in the past, and he’s learned from them.
“I couldn’t be prouder of the adult he’s become in the nine or 10 years I’ve known him. I’ve watched him grow from knee-high to towering above me,” added Roe. “He has become an outstanding young man.”
Taylor will major in Professional Golf Management.
IN PHOTOS: Tioga’s Sam Taylor. … PHOTOS BY TIM BIRNEY.
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