Thursday, June 16, 2016

Football camps allow you to rub elbows with the famous and soon-to-be famous

Hats off this week to Turk Pettit of Auburn for his big win in the 100th Alabama Men’s State Amateur Championship of the Alabama Golf Association, the final round of which was played Sunday at the Country Club of Birmingham in Mountain Brook.

Today isn’t the first time that Turk’s golf exploits have appeared in these pages, and I know it won’t be the last.

As many of you know, he is the grandson of longtime Conecuh County Board of Education representative Willene Whatley and the son of Kevin and Kelly Whatley Pettit of Auburn. His mother is a Conecuh County native, and his father, Kevin, is the head pro at the Indian Pines Golf Course.

Turk, who is just 17 years old and who will be a senior next fall at Lee-Scott Academy, beat Vanderbilt University sophomore Patrick Martin by one stroke on Sunday to win the state’s most prestigious amateur event.

Sunday’s win is just another feather in Turk’s cap. Back in February, Golfweek magazine named Turk one of the nation’s top young golfers and noted that he’s a pretty good football player as well. Turk is the quarterback of the Lee-Scott football team and guided the team to a 9-2 overall record and the second round of the state playoffs last season.

Many in the reading audience will also remember that in July 2014 Pettit grabbed headlines when he became the youngest player ever to win the prestigious Indian Pines Invitational Golf Tournament in Auburn. In that event, Pettit, then just 15, shot an 8-under 134 to beat 2013 champion, Jacob Harper. In all, Pettit outplayed 145 total players in the tournament and won the title by five shots.

On July 10, 2014, Pettit won the Southeastern Junior Golf Tour match play title at the Robert Trent Jones Trail’s Grand National Lake Course in Opelika. In early May 2014, he won top honors at the Alabama Independent School Association’s state championship golf tournament at the Saugahatchee Golf Course in Opelika.

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If you look elsewhere on this week’s sports page, you’ll see where two Hillcrest High School football players, Joshua Jackson and Jeremy Dees, got to meet Lovie Smith while attending a football camp at the University of Illinois. I first saw this on Facebook over the weekend, and thought it was great, and I appreciate Coach Quinn Hambrite hooking us up with a nice photo of the three of them together.

Meeting football celebrities like Smith is one of the best things about going to football camp. During the summers before my junior and senior years in high school, players from my high school went to football camp at Florida State University in Tallahassee, Fla. This was in the early 90s, when the Seminoles were a hot team nationally.

During those trips, we not only got to meet Bobby Bowden, but we also got to meet folks like Terrell Buckley and Chuck Amato. Buckley won the Jim Thorpe Award in 1991 as the nation’s top defensive back, and he went on to play in the NFL for the Green Bay Packers, the Miami Dolphins, the Denver Broncos, the New England Patriots, the New York Jets and the New York Giants.

Amato was a longtime assistant at Florida State and eventually went on to serve as head coach at North Carolina State for six seasons. He’s current the assistant head coach and defensive coordinator at Akron.

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