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Flying Fleet finds a 2-for-1 bargain at Lugoff-Elgin

Demons Barker, Walters sign to play golf at Erskine

Posted: April 29, 2014 3:10 p.m.
Updated: April 30, 2014 5:00 a.m.

Mike Robinson is really getting the hang of these college signing ceremonies.
The Lugoff-Elgin golf coach has posed for three this season alone, including back-to-back photo opportunities last Wednesday when Demon seniors Jake Barker and Chandler Walters both signed National Letters of Intent to continue their academic pursuits while playing golf at Erskine College.
This latest pair came after Kelli Murphy’s signing with Auburn University last fall, giving Robinson and company three college-bound players from the same team.
While Barker and Walters can both hit the ball a ton off the tee, their head coach said what makes the upperclassmen special is what they bring to the program both on and off the golf course.
“These three seniors, including Kelli, lead by example,” Robinson said after watching two of his players secure their college futures. “They’re dedicated to the game and they play all year long. They are serious about what they do and they really want to be good.
“I don’t know how good of golfers they will end up being but I do know that they will be the best people they can be.”
In what has been a tightly packed bunch all season, Walters’ nine-hole stroke average in tournaments and match play is 40.1. Barker, who has been playing golf a little more than four years, averages a 41.2 score each time he has tee  it up this year.
Having been teammates for the past four seasons, Barker and Walters will have four more years of playing for the same team when they get to Due West and become the newest members of the school’s golf team this fall.
“It will definitely affect it,” Barker said of having a friend and high school teammate playing together in college, “because it’s not like going someplace completely new and completely alone. Just in case things get tough, you will always have someone who knows you and your game.”
“That really helps a lot in being more comfortable out there,” Walters said of having Barker remain as a teammate with the Flying Fleet.
Both young men had several schools from which to choose before deciding on attending Erskine, a school which also received a National Letter of Intent from L-E baseball standout Zac Bowers earlier this month.
Barker and Walters each did their due diligence before coming to a decision on a college.
“I’ve been thinking about playing college golf for years,” Walters said. “But with Erskine, I really thought about it at the beginning of this year and looked it up and thought that I had a chance to get there.
“It’s a nice small town with a lot of good country people. It just seemed like the right place for me.”
Barker said he became serious about getting the chance to play college golf last summer after having given little or no thought to playing the sport after high school. While competing in a charity tournament at the beach, he met coaches from several colleges and was told that he had what it took to play the sport at the next level. Hearing those words inspired him to try and take his game to a higher plateau.
 “I was picking between about six colleges at the time, but they were the first school where I felt at home,” he said of Erskine and its head golf coach Jason Allen. “I got along really well with a few of the players that I met there and the coach.”
Robinson said he has enjoyed watching Barker develop into a strong player since he first came out for the team and played on the junior varsity squad as a freshman. Barker has since made his way to the varsity, beginning with his sophomore season.
“In the past year or so,” Robinson said, “Jake has really come along. He’s hitting the ball longer and farther. His scores have really come down from last year which is what I told them at our banquet last year which was if we really wanted to be competitive and be where we wanted to be, we needed to cut four to five shots shots off what their score was last year.
“Jake really worked hard last summer to get there.”
Walters first started playing golf when he was eight years old. He played on the L-E junior varsity team as a seventh- and eighth-grader before being promoted to the varsity as a freshman. Now, he is one --- if not, the --- of the longest hitter(s) on the Demons. Corraling that power and fine-tuning the other parts of his game are what Robinson said will carry Walters to bigger and better things in the future.
“Chandler hits the ball 310 yards. He drove one of the par fours in the (Anderson Brothers Bank) tournament,” he said of last week’s event played in Florence.
“They both hit the ball a ton; about 290 to 310 (yards) when they catch it. But the hardest part of this game is hitting greens in regulation and putting. That’s where we struggle. When we hit the greens well in regulation and when we putt well, we usually have good matches or tournaments. When we play bad, we are hitting shots to the right or left and not quite on the green.”
Once Barker and Walters begin playing golf for the Flying Fleet, they know things will change. In college, there are plenty of long hitters and the courses will be longer as well, in addition to more tournaments including those in the fall and then, the regular season in the spring.
“The guys are huge,” Barker said of college golfers while adding he was heading to a lesson that afternoon to help with his short game. “The courses are probably going to be a lot more difficult and the training regiment is going to be a lot more serious than it is in high school.”
Walters said that in order to continue his progression as a player, he needs to continue working on all facets of his game while tweaking the areas which need improvement. That process, he said, is and will continue to be an ongoing one.
“My ball striking is good and my putting’s pretty good,” he said in analyzing his present game. “I just have to work on my swing as much as I can and my putting can always get better … I just have to keep working on my short game.”
To prepare for playing in college, Jake Barker and Chandler Walters said they will continue to play in tournaments in the summer months as they seek to make their mark with the Flying Fleet. They both know that time in the weight room will also help in their collegiate quest.
One thing which Robinson knows is that both players will continue to represent themselves, their families, their school and community in the right way, regardless of how a particular day’s round of golf is going.
“I’ve been very fortunate,” Robinson said after the number of his former golfers signing national Letters of Intent swelled to five over the past four years. “We not only have good golfers here, but we also have good people.”

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