SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. – About a 12 months and a half in the past, Turk Pettit sat with Clemson teammates Colby Patton and Kyle Cottam in Larry Penley’s workplace because the legendary Tigers head coach broke the information. He was lastly retiring, however not till their careers have been completed.
On Monday afternoon at Grayhawk Golf Club, Pettit despatched Penley out with a nationwide championship.
The senior from Auburn, Alabama, edged Oklahoma State freshman Bo Jin by one shot to win the NCAA individual title, turning into the second participant in Clemson historical past to perform the feat after Charles Warren’s victory in 1997. Coincidentally, Warren, who beat Texas’ Brad Elder in a playoff that 12 months, texted Penley on Monday, “Turk’s got this.” Pettit did, even when the Tigers did not advance to match play.
“We don’t ever really talk that much about individual,” Penley mentioned. “You know, part of my coaching philosophy is if you always play and practice and work for the team and your teammates, the individual accolades will come. … But it sure is nice when the individual acclaims come in, you know, it really does justify their individual hard work, so I couldn’t be prouder for Turk.”
Pettit has undoubtedly put in work worthy of a champion. He was a gifted athlete when he arrived at Clemson, not solely profitable a highschool state championship as a golfer however beginning two years at quarterback for Lee-Scott Academy. That expertise confirmed shortly, as Pettit notched 5 top-3s, together with 4 straight, throughout his freshman season with the Tigers.
But he then hit a significant pace bump. Pettit’s golf golf equipment have been stolen earlier than the 2018 NCAA Championship at Karsten Creek, and Pettit shot 81 within the opening spherical. He was subbed out, after which after returning for the third spherical, he solely acquired by way of eight holes earlier than withdrawing.
Pettit’s struggles began with the driving force, and that bled into the whole lot else. “I just couldn’t hit a golf ball,” mentioned Pettit, who subsequently misplaced all confidence and needed to take a prolonged break. He didn’t play all summer time and returned to tie for 68th within the first match of what ended up being an up-and-down sophomore season. Pettit additionally began working with the varsity’s sports activities psychologists throughout that point.
“You could see the anxiety,” Penley mentioned. “I mean, his expectations for himself are so high. We realized he was so outcome oriented that everything became outcome, outcome, outcome, outcome, which was just nothing but pressure. So, once we got him re-channeled and got him to more of a process-oriented deal, he started coming back.”
Pettit’s junior 12 months was an enchancment, as he completed runner-up twice, however that was lower quick by the coronavirus pandemic. When the Tigers didn’t play final fall, Pettit took an internship together with his new teacher, Brad Pullin, at Squire Creek in Choudrant, Louisiana. Pullin, who additionally coaches latest PGA Tour winner Sam Burns, used that point to complete sorting Pettit out. In the previous 12 months, Pettit has modified golf equipment, added pace and perfected the excessive, mushy lower he had added to his repertoire. Competing with Burns now and again helped, too.
“He’s just got this winning mentality,” Pettit mentioned of Burns. “He’s going to win a lot on Tour, and to be around that is special. It rubs off on you.”
So, too, does enjoying for Penley, who was inducted into the Golf Coaches Association Hall of Fame in 2004 and was named ACC Coach of the Year in 5 completely different many years.
“I’m here because of him,” Pettit mentioned. “He never had a doubt about me. He was probably more sure than I was.”
Penley knew Pettit was particular from the primary time he recruited him. This week, Pettit, who put collectively a constant senior season with seven top-10s, validated that perception for the ultimate time as a Tiger. He entered Monday’s last spherical trailing Jin by two photographs, however Pettit, enjoying on the other 9, caught and handed the Cowboys’ proficient freshman with a bogey-free, 2-under 33 on Grayhawk’s tough again 9. Despite two bogeys in his first three holes to start out the entrance facet, Pettit was nonetheless very a lot in it due to a fortunate break on a blocked drive at No. 3, which missed the desert and discovered a gap on the adjoining gap, and three bogeys by Jin in his first 10 holes.
Jin tied Pettit with a birdie on the par-5 11th gap, and Arizona State’s Ryggs Johnston briefly pulled to inside a shot of the lead, however Pettit acquired it within the clubhouse at 7 underneath with a nifty up-and-down par on the par-4 ninth, his last gap, to shoot even-par 70 after which watched as Jin performed the ultimate gap.
From throughout the pond, Pettit waited anxiously as Jin drove it within the left tough, almost discovered the water together with his strategy after which hit a poor chip from the financial institution.
“My heart was beating the fastest it beat all day,” Pettit mentioned.
As Jin’s 10-footer to power a playoff rolled by, the Clemson trustworthy set free an enormous roar. Pettit shortly embraced an emotional Penley, whose profession was formally over.
(Arizona State, Oklahoma State, Pepperdine, Oklahoma, Illinois, Florida State, Vanderbilt and North Carolina have been the eight match-play qualifiers as that race lacked drama down the stretch with the Tar Heels ending 9 photographs forward of ninth-place groups Sam Houston and Louisville.)
“I was preparing for a playoff, which I thought was gonna be kind of cool, like, I’m not done yet, I’ve got more golf,” Penley mentioned. “But it didn’t happen, and I’m so happy it didn’t happen.”
In 38 seasons, Penley amassed 83 match wins, together with 10 ACC titles (the final coming this 12 months) and the 2003 NCAA Championship. He will now hand over the reins to assistant Jordan Byrd, although he absolutely expects to function a volunteer assistant within the close to future whereas balancing household time together with his spouse Heidi, three youngsters and soon-to-be 5 grandkids.
“I’ll do practice on Mondays and Wednesdays, and then I’ll let [Jordan] do all the other crap,” Penley joked.
As for Pettit, he’ll flip skilled this summer time. He has conditional standing on the Forme Tour, however he expects to play principally mini-tour occasions and qualifiers earlier than attempting Q-School later this 12 months. He’ll make the leap as a “completely different person” than he was as a sophomore, with a robust self-belief and championship-level sport.
“Hard work pays off,” Pettit said. “My dad always said if you do the right thing and work hard, God will take care of everything. That’s pretty special.”
And giving his beloved coach a proper sendoff was icing on the cake.