McDERMOTT — Cameron Phillips, when you interview him face-to-face, is quite the quiet — and considered shy — Valley High School freshman.
However, his golf game more than does the talking for him —and in a distinct booming tone to be exact.
So much so that it begs the question.
Can the freshman Phillips —in his first on Friday and Saturday and likely not his last boys golf state tournament — fine-tune his game loud enough, and low enough, to capture the Division III state championship?
He certainly has a good shot at it, and he is indeed playing for it.
The goal is to win. And play good,” said the left-handed Phillips, in an interview on Tuesday during a driving range session at his home course of The Elks Country Club.
His father, The Elks golf professional and Valley golf coach Tyson Phillips expanded upon Cameron’s answers —as Phillips plays on Friday and Saturday in the annual state tournament, with the Division III boys event taking place at Ohio State University’s Scarlet Course.
“Number one…that’s our goal. It’s no different than signing up for and going to all these big-time tournaments in the offseason and traveling to Florida or Texas or Las Vegas or wherever he goes. We don’t sign up for summer tournaments to just play well. It’s to win,” said Tyson. “Where he is at right now as a freshman, we’re going to go win. If it happens, it’s going to be great. If it doesn’t, then the season will still be a success.”
As it indeed should be considered.
The postseason especially, since he was the sectional champion with a 67 at Chillicothe Jaycees Golf Course —followed by his district championship with a 4-under-par 68 at The Elks.
“Winning the sectional and the district makes me feel good about my game,” said Cameron.
He is the first Valley golfer since the 2003 and 2004 falls to qualify for the state tournament —when A.J. Phillips did so individually in 2003, and before the Indians advanced as a team a year later with Phillips leading the way.
A.J. shot 165 at the state meet his first season, and a 159 the next.
Cameron Phillips figures to fire even lower —as traditionally the top-five placers for the two-day and 36-hole competition earn all-Ohio honors.
Phillips has played the Scarlet Course, but he initially said he “couldn’t remember what I shot, or remember much about it.”
“It’s been a while,” he said.
Actually, he played there three years ago, and indeed played well — shooting a 70 from the forward tees.
The Scarlet Course is an 18-hole, par-71 layout, although the Ohio High School Athletic Association tournament distance covers an estimated 6,700 yards.
The Alister MacKenzie-designed layout is rated as one of the top collegiate courses in the entire country by Golf Digest, and is located two miles northwest of the OSU campus — close to Upper Arlington.
Phillips’ mental game will indeed be tested this week with his physical play, as the wind and rolling terrain of the Scarlet Course creates challenges on several holes.
The greens are large and contoured with strategically-placed bunkers, as there is also a nine-and-a-half acre lake with winding stream.
Per www.golfadvisor.com, the rating is 76.2, the slope is 138, and the yardage is 7,455 from the championship tees.
A decade-and-a-half ago, the Scarlet Course underwent a major restoration project — overseen by former Ohio State legend and 18-time major champion Jack Nicklaus.
“The Scarlet Course has a challenge on every hole. If you mishit shots, it’s going to be difficult to scramble around and make par. From day one, we’ve probably focused 80-percent of our time developing his short game with his wedges and putting. Those are your scoring clubs,” said Tyson.
Cameron concurred, agreeing that “probably putting” will be the most important phase of his tee-to-green game this weekend.
The coach and elder Phillips added that his son has “a good frame of mind about where his game is with his wedges and putter.”
“Hopefully, that saves us some shots this weekend,” said Tyson.
Phillips plays the traditional Thursday practice round before the actual two-day tournament, which begins Friday for him as the final threesome off the first tee at 10:50 a.m.
He marks the second consecutive state tournament in which a Southern Ohio Conference boys golfer has competed —as Trevin Mault of Wheelersburg qualified last season for the Division II tournament.
Speaking of Division II, Oak Hill senior Kameron Maple —the Southeast District champion with a 74 at Crown Hill Golf Club —competes in that state tournament this weekend at NorthStar Golf Club in Sunbury.
He too tees off at 10:50 am on Friday.
Phillips is actually one of the odds-on Division III state championship favorites —given his ability to fire low numbers on just about any links.
He has shot a lifetime-best 63 at The Elks, before last summer shooting a 64 at Dayton Country Club.
Two days of those totals, plus being able to battle any adverse weather conditions or unlucky breaks, and Phillips returns to Scioto County as the Division III state champion.
No doubt, the Valley youngster linkster lets his game do his talking.
“As a father first and golf coach second, this has been a long time in the making. Cameron has been around golf all his life. We have videos of him standing in diapers and swinging a golf club. He was able to play in his first tournament when he was four years old down in South Carolina. He’s played in multiple tournaments throughout his life. A lot of big-time world championship tournaments and been around a lot of great competition. This tournament is no different. Even though they are calling it the state championship, this will just be us preparing for another tournament no different than what we have before,” said Tyson. “If he does what he is supposed to do, and pulls through with the weather possibly changing with wind and a chance of rain, or handles the adversity of good shots having bad bounces, then we’ll be alright. It all boils down to himself, and how do we prepare for the tournament on Thursday with the practice round…getting good yardages on each hole and trying to figure out how to attack each hole. He is one of the top-rated juniors in the state of Ohio and the world, and he will be there trying to win it on the second day.”