MOUNT VERNON — This week has been one of preparation for Mount Vernon High School junior Charlie Phillips. After all, Phillips will be making his second appearance at the Division I State Golf Tournament on Friday and Saturday.
The one thing Phillips, who was the district champion after shooting a 70 at Apple Valley Golf Course last week, has been for the Yellow Jackets is consistent. He averaged just over 72 this season, and combined with Mount Vernon senior T.T. Crouch to be a solid 1-2 punch.
“Charlie has been consistent all year,” said Mount Vernon coach Mike Fuller. “An amazing stat to me is that after our last regular-season match, he was 6-over par for the year. He’s been playing pretty consistent. He came out here to Apple Valley, and had a lot of confidence. He definitely has a lot of ability, and has worked very hard at his game. It is not surprising at all that he played so well, and was the district champion. He’s one of the top five to 10 players in the state.”
“I am a lot more confident,” said Phillips. “Every tournament this year, I did pretty well. The experience I’ve gotten the last few years has helped a lot. ... Every tournament I’ve played has given me more experience and I’ve gotten a lot of lessons. As I’ve gotten in a routine, things have been working.”
Phillips knows The Ohio State University Scarlet course, where the state tournament will be played, rather well. He played there as a freshman, and again this summer in another event. Phillips tied for 14th as a freshman, shooting a 162. He shot an 83 on Day 1, and then followed it up with a 79 on Day 2.
“He was very successful,” said Fuller. “He had a 162 two-day total, which just missed being All-Ohio. This time around, he has more experience; he is bigger and stronger; he is more confident. It won’t surprise me to see him play very well down there. Although, that course is plenty of course and can tear you up.”
Playing the course as a freshman and then watching Crouch play there last year, Phillips has learned a lot. Unlike many golfers, he has a good handle on what he needs to do there to be successful.
“Par is a good score,” Phillips said of the Scarlet course. “I can’t give up. The person who wins is usually the person with the least bogeys. ... You have to be smart around the greens. The goal is to make par and score. You have to limit your risk and make the most probable shot.
“You have to play smart. With the weather, the course can really get into people’s heads. ... (Playing in the tournament over the summer) gave me five extra rounds than everybody else, so I’m a little more familiar with the course.”
The Scarlet course is long, which can cause a lot of problems for high school golfers. Phillips has played long courses before, however, and Fuller believes he will be ready for this one.
“The long ball hitters definitely have an advantage,” Fuller said. “The longer the course is, the closer you can get to the green for your approach shot the better off you are. If you’re hitting a 7- or 8-iron in and your competitors are hitting 4- or 5-irons in, that’s a big difference. You have a little more control and have a better chance at getting close to the pin, which gives you a makeable putt and helps you score better.
“You can’t emulate it, really, but Charlie has been around and played many, many tournaments,” said Fuller. “He knows what his abilities are, what pins he can go after and what pins he can hit to the middle of the green and take his chances with his putter. He’ll do fine.”
The weekend weather forecast will be much different than Wednesday’s high of 72. Rain and temperatures up to 20 degrees cooler could make the course that much tougher.
“The weather could play a factor, but for some reason, it seems like the worse the conditions are, the better Charlie plays,” Fuller said. “We played the district — it was cold and windy — and he shoots 70. A couple of weeks before that, we were playing Clover Valley in Johnstown. It was windy and rainy. The greens had just been plugged, and he shot 68 and beat the field by six or seven strokes. ... If he was a horse, he would probably be called a mudder, so I’m not worried about the weather at all.”
“Bad weather usually just helps me focus more,” said Phillips.
Focused is exactly what Phillips is. He is determined to score better than his 162 as a freshman, and believes he has what it takes to bring home a state title.
“I want to get into the top 5 at least, and maybe win it,” said Phillips. “I want to at least be in contention for it. ... The way I’ve been playing, I think I can do it. I’ve been working really hard this past week, and everything is starting to come together.
“It will be really important to post a good score on Friday. That will determine if I have a chance at winning it. A good score would put me up there.”