Books and Birdies

Golf is a thinking person’s game: more of an exercise in situational planning than a physical activity. You compete against the course rather than against your opponents. Figuring out the bumps and breaks on the fairway and choosing spots for perfect ball placement on the green take strategy. Camden County High School juniors Thacher Neal and Chase Weathers have the mindset that helps them manage a golf course and makes them stars in the classroom.

“Good grades ensure that I think before hitting a shot, looking at higher percentage shots over the crazy, hard, flashy shots,” Neal said.

Despite being juniors, Weathers and Neal are mature young men and experienced junior golfers. They posted the Wildcats’ lowest scores last year as sophomores and were co-MVPs.

“The biggest area that they have each improved on this year is leadership,” said Camden County golf coach Brian Benton, who is in his second year as head coach but was an assistant prior to that. “They have both taken on responsibility of holding their teammates accountable.”

Neal is academically ranked No. 69 in a class of 578 at Camden County High School. He has a 3.8 GPA and is a member of DECA. He plans on playing golf in college and has two schools – Valdosta State University and Furman – looking at him.

Neal has been on the Honor Roll the last two years and enjoys U.S. history class, which is what he plans on majoring in at college.

History is also the favorite class of Weathers, who is a member of the Senior Beta Club and the National Honor Society. He carries a 4.23 weighted GPA, and although he hasn’t decided which school he will attend, Weathers plans on getting his business degree in finance while playing golf in college. Excelling academically helps him on the course as well.

“It gives me confidence to succeed,” Weathers said. “Plus, my parents highly encourage good grades and academic success.”

On the course, Weathers was low medalist at the Blue Devil Classic and was named MVP for the Camden County golf team his freshman and sophomore years. He once shot a 67 to win the David A. Wall Junior Invitational by seven shots.

He has become stronger mentally, which helps his game. His key to improving himself has been persistence.

“Many years of practice and hard work,” Weathers said. “My dad has been my best support. I also get swing coaching and physical flexibility training from Sea Island Learning Center instructors.”

A strong all-around player, Weathers can hit any shot and can recover from his rare missed shots.

“Chase is very good at managing his way around a golf course and maintains an even temperament throughout tournaments,” Benton said.

Neal was All-Region last year and was low medalist at the Camden Classic. He also tied for first at the Golden Isles Invitational, was second at the Trojan Invitational, and had the team’s lowest scoring average of the season. He started playing before his sixth-grade year when he was in a boot from a displaced growth plate in his heel. Neal took to the game like a duck to water, and within a year he was playing junior tournaments.

He recalled his first big shot playing at Mossy Creek near Helen, Georgia. On the 17th hole, with the pin positioned back left and the green sloping dead to the front, he was 35 feet right facing a putt that broke six feet.

“I made that putt and made par on 18 to win the tournament,” Neal said.

Around this time, lightning struck, and Neal hit a hole in one. He was 13-years-old with a seven-wood from 155 yards.

“I was so small and young it was pretty exciting,” Neal said.

He became serious about golf his freshman year and gave up football in high school.

Weathers scored his ace at the Brunswick Country Club’s eighth hole, a 202-yard par 3. He picked up golf in the third grade at the knee of his father, Hal Weathers, a former PGA Class A Professional.

“My begging to go play golf actually got him back into the game,” Weathers said.

The first time he played he nearly scored a hole in one on the third hole. Last year he got to play at the legendary Augusta National Course with his dad.

Neal was the MVP of the golf team’s championship his freshman year at North Forsyth High School before moving to Camden County last year. Once he was in southeast Georgia, he worked with Jekyll Island PGA professional Rob Ellis to compact his swing.

“My ball-striking has elevated my game,” Neal said.

His favorite part of the game is meeting people from all over the world. On the tee box, he thinks about his swing. His plan is to pick a conservative line then put a confident, aggressive swing on the ball. Once he reaches the green, he is deadly.

“Thacher’s strongest part of his game is his putting,” Benton said. “Last year during the region championship, he missed a green right on his second shot into a par 5. He followed with a chip that left him a 20-foot putt, which he drained for birdie. Thacher also hits his irons very accurately and sticks approach shots in makeable range for birdie.”

Benton added that both players bring low scores to the Wildcats’ totals and have helped their teammates stay focused and keep a positive attitude during tournaments.

“All the players on our team believe we always have a chance to win, and even if they hit a bad shot, they believe their teammates are playing well, so they stay focused and committed,” Benton said.

 

What’s in the Bag?

 

Thacher Neal:

Callaway GBB Epic Subzero Driver

RBZ 13 degree 3 wood

Callaway XR 3 hybrid

Ping I20 irons 4-pw

Mizuno MP-T4 wedges 50 and 60 degree

Ping Tour Gorge 53 degree

Favorite club: 60-degree lob wedge

Favorite course to play: Chattahoochee (Gainesville, Georgia)

 

Chase Weathers:

TaylorMade M1 Driver

Odyssey

Mizuno

Titleist

Vokey

Favorite club:   7 Iron

Favorite course to play: Amelia Island Plantation Ocean Links


SE-AA-0417-Weathers/Neal

AA – Chase Weathers and Thacher Neal

Camden County golf

By Rob Asbell

Photography by Michael Brinson

Books and Birdies