McCallie senior Thad Whitfield has something in common with PGA Tour golfer Scottie Scheffler, who is currently ranked first in the Official World Golf Rankings.
Whitfield joined elite company with Scheffler when the Blue Tornado star competed in the 47th Junior PGA Championship from August 1-4 held in Hot Springs, Arkansas.
Scheffler is a former three-time participant in the Junior PGA Championships, where Tiger Woods, Jordan Spieth, Tony Finau and Justin Thomas also competed during their high school years.
In a field of 156 of the world's best junior golfers, Whitfield held his own in the hunt for the Jack Nicklaus Trophy. He shot 3-under par combined in his second and third rounds to ultimately finish 3-over-par and in a tie for 27th place in the 72-hole event.
The strong showing on the national stage for the Middle Tennessee State University commitment came about after he fully committed to golf in 2020.
"I played baseball and basketball primarily growing up on Signal Mountain," said Whitfield, who has three older sisters. "I didn't start really focusing on golf until the coronavirus pandemic in 2020. Everything closed down, so I spent a lot of time out on the golf course to pass the time. Honestly, COVID really sparked the opportunity to play a lot of golf. Ever since then it has been my main sport."
Hurricane Invitational at WindStone Golf Club
There was a breakthrough in Whitfield's junior season as he finished in a tie for second place at the City Prep and followed that by shooting 8-under over 15 holes in a Ryder Cup-style event to help McCallie beat rival Baylor. He went on to finish in a tie for fourth place at the Division II-AA state championship in October, shooting 2-under over 36 holes.
The momentum only continued to build for Whitfield, whose recent performance has been as scorching as the summer heat. On May 21 the 17-year-old won the Signal Mountain Invitational by shooting 9-under for the 54-hole event on his home course.
Whitfield then punched his ticket to the Junior PGA Championship by winning the Tennessee Junior PGA Championship with a 10-under, 36-hole scorecard that included seven birdies.
"Winning the Signal Mountain Invitational gave me a lot of confidence," said Whitfield, who also placed fourth this summer at the Tennessee Junior Golf Championship with an 8-under. "I finally feel like things are starting to click this summer. I have been playing good for awhile now. My hard work has started to pay off and the scores are getting lower as I build more experience and confidence.
"What has helped me separate has been lots of practice and doing things the right way. You can practice as much as you want, but if you aren't training the right way it's not going to show in your game. You have to be disciplined and work in a smart way."
On Monday Whitfield battled East Hamilton's Griffin Law in the Hurricane Invitational at the WindStone Golf Club in Ringgold. Both showed consistency throughout the day with their ball-striking, but it was Law who pulled ahead thanks to a hot streak with the putter, including a long eagle putt on the Par 5 ninth hole, then sinking another long putt on No. 10 for an uphill birdie.
Law won his team's invitational with a career-best, 8-under and Whitfield came in second at 3-under. Law is part of a loaded East Hamilton team that includes sophomore Tucker Wick, who did not play Monday due to injury but is expected back soon.
That pair played well at last year's Class AA state tournament with Wick tying for sixth place at 1-over and Law coming in two strokes behind for 13th place.
Baylor awon the girls' portion of the Hurricane Invitational, as Canadian border Justine Emond won individual honors with a 74 and Ooltewah's Delaney Ratchford finished runner-up.
Contact Patrick MacCoon at email@example.com.