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Prep Sports

THE TIMES 2018 GOLFER OF THE YEAR: Woodland's Jenkins, a sure and steady sectional champion

Woodland senior Tyler Jenkins is The Times 2018 Golfer of the Year.
Woodland senior Tyler Jenkins is The Times 2018 Golfer of the Year.

Like a handful of other young golfers across The Times area, Woodland's Tyler Jenkins was enjoying another in a series of fine seasons this past fall.

A four-year varsity player and for the last two years the ace of the Warriors team, Jenkins entered the IHSA postseason already having marked a pretty impressive senior campaign.

A 40.2 nine-hole average.

Nine medalist honors.

A place on the Tri-County All-Conference Golf Team.

It was in the postseason — both figuratively and literally — where Jenkins truly separated himself.

An individual sectional champion.

A 16th-place finish at the IHSA Class 1A Boys Golf State Finals.

And now, The Times 2018 Golfer of the Year.

"All throughout high school I golfed as much as possible, trying to get out every day in the summer, and by the end of (my senior) season, it seemed like the game was easier," Jenkins said.

"It was pretty much all falling together. I didn't have many errant shots, and my putting was good. Anytime you're putting well, you're playing well."

As good as he is with his clubs between the tee box and the pin, it is likely between the ears where Jenkins' greatest strength lies on the golf course. A steady temperament to match his steady swing has kept the Warriors ace one of the most consistent young players throughout the area year-to-year, season-to-season, meet-to-meet, hole-to-hole, shot-to-shot.

"I try to keep a relaxed attitude on the golf course, not too up, not too down," Jenkins said. "Golf will humble you, but you can always bounce back and recover."

That history of steady play is what made what happened at Danville Country Club on Oct. 8 so rewarding ... and maybe just a little surprising.

A sectional qualifier both his sophomore and junior years who barely missed the cutoff to state as an 11th-grader, Jenkins' advancing out of the Danville Schlarman Class 1A Sectional to the IHSA State Finals was expected. That he wasn't just steady but downright spectacular over 18 holes may not have been, though, as Jenkins played stroke for stroke with central Illinois' best all day and punctuated his day with a birdie-birdie-par-birdie finish to close out with a 3-over-par 75, a no-doubt-about-it trip to state and individual sectional medalist honors.

"It was great," he said of his championship round. "It felt so good, a feeling of relief almost. You work so hard all season, and it's kind of a load off your shoulders to realize all your work paying off."

From there it was off to Bloomington's Prairie Vista Golf Course and the IHSA 1A State Finals. A mix of rain and snow wiped out the opening day of the planned two-day, 36-hole tournament, allowing Jenkins a fresh start after a couple rough holes battling the precipitation.

He took advantage of it, shooting a 41 on the front nine and a 39 on the back with a characteristically steady nine-par, one-birdie performance. That placed Jenkins in a tie for 16th in Class 1A, just one stroke away from all-state honors in the field of 111.

It was a fantastic ending to fantastic prep career.

"Tyler came in as a freshman and had some meets where he would score for us (on a strong and deep Woodland team), and he just continued to work and grind," said WHS golf coach Jordan Farris. "He narrowly missed state his junior year, and I think he came into this, his senior year, with a little something to prove.

"His work in the offseason definitely showed. He was much more consistent, much more confident with his shots ... (and when he advanced to state) I think at that point he was definitely thinking, 'We're playing with house money now.' He had nothing to lose, his senior year and he's at state, and he ended up putting together another great round and missed medaling by one shot.

"I have nothing but good things to say about his prep career. He's a really good golfer, but he's a really great student and kid."

To that point, in lieu of pursuing a college golf career Jenkins says he's planning to instead attend Illinois State University and devote his time to his studies in actuarial science to get a jump on his career — a decision and profession perfectly in keeping with his steady, even-keeled, risk-managing temperament out on the golf course.

Not that he plans on giving up the game.

Not at all.

"I'll be able to play golf the rest of my life," Jenkins said. "Which is good."

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