May 19, 2013

Prep golf: Blair will hone skills on greens

By Chris Whitfield
sports@daltoncitizen.com

— Even as a freshman, Jocelyn Blair was making a name for herself on the area girls prep golf scene despite having played the game for only a year.

And when her dad, Seaburn, had taken her out on the course for the first time, it hadn’t been love at first sight then, either.

“My dad has always played, but I didn’t think that it was fun at all,” Blair said. “I played basketball and soccer and other things, and I didn’t think that golf was my thing.”

Turns out she was wrong.

Now she and teammate Dara Dople will get the chance to play the game in college.

Blair, a three-time member of The Daily Citizen’s All-Area Spring Team — this year’s team has not yet been selected — recently signed a letter of intent to play at Reinhardt University, a National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics program in Waleska. She and teammate Dara Dople will both play at the next level, with Dople going to Maryville (Tenn.) College, an NCAA Division III program.

“They have been talking to me since about this time last year, and I was very interested,” Blair said. “It isn't too far away from home, and it just felt right. I like the coach and it is a good program.”

Under coach Dan Mullins, the 2001 recipient of the Georgia PGA Professional of the Year award, the Lady Eagles have a young roster without a senior in this year’s lineup. There are also no players from outside of the metro Atlanta area on this year’s roster. Reinhardt competes in the Appalachian Athletic Conference and plays its home matches at Callahan Golf Links in Cherokee County.

“They have a lot of positive things going on with their program,” Blair said. “They were second in their conference last year, and they are all very competitive. I don't want to go somewhere just to go. I want to try and compete.”

She has been competitive from the start, and even though she may not have liked the game when introduced to it, she quickly realized she had a talent.

“I guess I started decent at it and I could hit long drives,” Blair said. “I started winning things and that was really fun. I like the fact that it was an individual sport. I like team sports, but golf is all on your shoulders. I started playing in summer tournaments and that is when it got more serious.”

As a sophomore, she finished third in the Region 7-2A tournament and earned her first bid to the Class 2A state tournament. She kept progressing from there. As a junior, she was the Region 7-2A runner-up, captured medalist honors at the Lady Conasauga Cup and finished fourth in the Class 2A state tournament.

During her senior season, Blair has already been the medalist for Region 5-3A — she shot an 85 at Field’s Ferry in Calhoun — and will lead the Lady Mountaineers as they compete in the Class 3A tournament Monday at Chateau Elan in Braselton. She also recently had a hole-in-one at Gatlinburg (Tenn.) Country Club on the 197-yard, par-3 17th hole. Blair’s ace came two weeks after legendary former University of Tennessee women’s basketball coach Pat Summitt recorded a hole-in-one on the same hole.

As for Dople, while she was considering her college choices, playing golf at the next level was never part of her plans.

“I was very surprised,” said Dople, who is the No. 2 golfer for North Murray with a scoring average in the high 90s. “I had been interested in Division II schools and didn't think I was good enough to play. When coach Ron Waters got in touch with me, I was very happy. I am grateful to have the opportunity, and I think I can get down into the mid-to-low-80s.”

Like Blair, Dople wasn’t introduced to the game until she was in eighth grade. Her grandfather, Jim Harrison, had an old set of men’s Ping blades and took her to the driving range and the golf course. It wasn’t long before she was getting her own set of clubs.

“It was something I fell in love with right away,” she said. “Now I get to go to Maryville, and it was sort of the same thing. The school is a Christian-based college with very high academic standards, and when I went to visit, I just fell in love with it.”