MOUNT VERNON — Mount Vernon High School golfers T.T. Crouch and Charlie Phillips provided the Yellow Jackets a solid 1-2 punch this season, and it is hard to distinguish which one is better than the other. Both golfers had outstanding years this season, and for their efforts, Crouch and Phillips were selected as the News’ Golfers of the Year. Mount Vernon head coach Mike Fuller was also selected as the area golf Coach of the Year.
“T.T. and Charlie were, obviously, two leaders on the course and off as well,” said Fuller. “It seemed like one or the other was medalist in every event we played in this year. We played in 18 regular-season events, and those two were either medalist or runner-up in 15 out of the 18 times. T.T. was medalist at the sectional and Charlie was medalist at the district. Their play led us the whole year. They are two outstanding golfers and outstanding kids as well.”
Crouch and Phillips headline the All-Area First Team, which also includes Mid-Buckeye Conference Player of the Year Garrison Myles and state qualifier Troy Lemke of Centerburg; district qualifier Kyle Cremeans of Highland; and district qualifier Joe Metzger of Utica. Earning Honorable Mention honors were Brody Harwell of Mount Vernon, Nich Pitzer of Centerburg, Nick Stover of Danville and Austin Neff of Utica.
Crouch, a senior who recently signed to play golf for Florida Southern College, averaged 73.3 over 18 holes this season. He was the Ohio Capital Conference Capital Division Player of the Year after leading Mount Vernon to the league title, and just missed the cut for the Division I State Tournament. He fired a 66 this season to set the school record as well.
“He has been phenomenal all four years,” said Fuller of Crouch. “Every year, he seemed to get a little bit better, and this year, he was just more consistent. His high scores weren’t as high and he closed the gap between his high scores and low scores. He just had a phenomenal year. He is one of the top two or three golfers ever to come through Mount Vernon. Last year, he was Central District Player of the Year, and this year, he was runner-up. I’d say that was a pretty good career.
“T.T. has been conference Player of the Year twice, including this season. He was First Team the other two years.”
Crouch did the nearly impossible, improving his game from his junior to senior years. Fuller was impressed by how consistent he played this season.
“He probably hit more greens this year than he had in the past, which kind of helped him bring his scores down a little bit,” Fuller said. “He has always been pretty good at driving the ball, but this year, he got to a few more greens. Overall, his short game was better. It is hard to see improvement when you are down close to par. It takes a lot to improve once you get down to that area.”
Phillips averaged 72.3 over 18 holes this season, and shot a season-low 68 on a few different occasions. He came up big when it mattered, however, shooting a 70 at Apple Valley Golf Course on Oct. 13 to qualify for his second state tournament, where he finished tied for 11th overall.
“I’m very pleased with his performance,” said Fuller of Phillips. “I’m very proud of him. He is a gifted athlete; he’s a competitor just like T.T. When he needs to rise up, it seems like he can. The tougher the conditions, the tougher the field, the tougher the course, the more he likes to rise up. It didn’t surprise me at all that he was the district medalist. He also played really well at the state tournament. I really believe that if he could have had a two-day state tournament instead of the one, he could have finished higher, even possibly being in contention for the title. He was only three shots back, and you can make that up pretty quick.”
Phillips, a junior, also showed marked improvement this season, which has Fuller excited for next year.
“He is such a competitor that he is going to give himself a chance and be in the hunt every time,” said Fuller. “He putted more consistent this year. He would have days last year where he would just putt the lights out and other days where the putter wasn’t working so well. It seemed like he was a little more consistent this year. He has put in a lot of effort, a lot of time, and those efforts paid off.”
Having two golfers like Crouch and Phillips has been a blessing for Fuller. It also worked out in the team’s favor.
“They have a little friendly rivalry,” Fuller said. “Both of them are good teammates; they care about what each other shoots. They know that if both of them have a good day, their team is going to have a good day. They have fun with it, and are good buddies. They went out (Monday) just to play a round and shot 65, 66. They are competitive even when it is not in a match.”
Fuller provided much leadership for a Mount Vernon squad loaded with talent. While his job may have been easy at times, it also provided many challenges.
“I think we improved,” said Fuller. “We struggled to find our No. 4 and 5 man, but it was just a matter of finding the pieces and putting them together. We were strong at the end of the year, a little bit stronger than we were at the beginning. We just missed going to state by a couple of strokes, and the Central District is the toughest district in the state as far as golf goes. We can’t hang our heads; we have to be proud of our efforts.”