It’s never too late to change your line of work. Or, in the case of Michaelah Wise, of play.
Wise, the number one player on the Lugoff-Elgin golf team for each of the past five seasons, took a circuitous route to the links. Her journey to the tee box, actually, started by her stepping out of the batters’ box.
“About five years ago,” Wise said, “I started getting serious about golf. I played softball for awhile and I started to look at different sports that I could play. I would go out with my dad and my uncle and just decided that I liked golf and that I wanted to get better at it.
“Probably about a year or two after I started playing, I got serious about golf. That was when everything started to click.”
Getting better at the game led Wise to becoming part of Zoe Dommel’s first Lady Demons’ golf team five seasons ago, when she was an eighth-grader. Now, her skills with the clubs and in the classroom led to Wise’s signing a National Letter of Intent to continue her academic and golfing pursuits at St. Andrews University in Laurinburg, N.C.
With eyes cast toward a school which would fit her academic and golfing desires, Wise found the perfect fit at St. Andrews.
“Ultimately, I felt it would give me the most ability to better myself. And, the academics allowed me to further my interest in both the business and the equine management program,” she said of her collegiate choice.
Looking down Wise’s list of accomplishments in her five-year high school career, it is not hard to discern that she made the correct choice in trading an aluminum bat for a driver. In each of the past three years, Wise earned all-region honors including being named to the All-Region 4-5A team last fall, thereby becoming the first L-E athlete to be accorded postseason laurels since the school was bumped into the 5A ranks in 2018.
A state tournament qualifier in each of her final three high school campaigns, Wise attained Eagle status through the First Tee Program while having qualified and played in the South Carolina Junior Golf Association’s Tommy Cuthbert All-Stars in Hilton Head the past three years.
Dommel said Wise was everything a coach could want in a player on the course and, as a person off it.
“Michaelah is a terrific young lady,” Dommel said. “She has participated in giving back to the golf community through working with the First Tee program. She played and learned through First Tee, but she has also paid back by giving of her time and working with younger golfers. She’s a great student and good role model for other young people.”
As for her golfing skills, both the player and her coach smiled when asked what part of Wise’s game stands out. Ever since she started playing golf, Wise said, she was always able to smash the ball off the tee although, admitting “but I had no idea where it was going,” she said with a laugh. Before long, her drives landed in the fairway more often than not as her game began to take shape.
“She can hit the ball a really long way. She gets tremendous height on the ball. You just can’t teach that,” said Dommel who is a top amateur player. “Distance is one of her main strengths. Once she is able to dial that in and gets her yardages … those are all tremendous things to work with.”
Wise continues to work on her short game in becoming an even more dangerous all-around player; given the fact that she will be playing year ‘round in college will do nothing but help Wise in that respect.
“I’ll be practicing every day and with the year ‘round tournament play. It will be a little bit different,” she said.
“Michaelah will get to play a lot more often in college,” Dommel said. “The key for her will be time on the putting greens and being able to read different kind of greens and having confidence in her putting. Probably just managing the game and not really realizing that you don’t have to hit it far all the time ... sometimes, it’s good to know that you can lay up in a nice spot. It’s all about course management.”
As someone who was there at the infancy of the L-E girls’ golf program five seasons ago, Wise became a team leader from the time she first stepped onto the driving range and practice green. Her absence will leave a large void to be filled come next fall.
“Everything,” Dommel said when asked what Wise meant to the Lady Demons. “She was our number one since she was in the eighth grade. She’s been here since the beginning of the program. If we had a team when she was in the seventh grade, she probably would have been here then, too.
“Our program is five years old and Michaelah was a big part of it. We’re going to miss her.”
Dommel went on to say if her team had more girls like Wise to take up the sport, the Lady Demons could pick up where Wise left off without the team missing a beat.
“What’s next is going to try to find more golfers. We’re having a hard time finding golfers,” Dommel said of the young program. “People just don’t realize that golf is an option for girls, just like volleyball, softball, cheerleading … they just don’t think golf. They think it’s expensive and they think that’s a barrier, but golf is something that parents and kids can do together the rest of their life.”
For Michaelah Wise, it was her deciding to join her dad and uncle when they went to the golf course which lit the fire inside her. As she progressed, she became a team leader at L-E. It was a role which she took seriously. She urged other young ladies, to try the sport and follow in her footsteps.
“I would say to just give it a shot,” she said of playing golf at L-E. “Like everything, you are going to have to work at it to get better. In the long run, you can make a lot of new connections and, possibly, get a scholarship if you take it serious.”