COLUMBIA — Jack Parker’s coaches say he is a good kid, has “the perfect demeanor” and is always on an even keel.
What they might have a harder time explaining is Parker's perpetual smile.
“It’s a personal mindset of mine,” Parker said. “You just always have to be happy.”
If for no other reason, Parker’s ability around the golf course might be enough to put a smile on his face. The Fr. Tolton Regional Catholic High School freshman earned individual honors in Tolton’s last three matches, including their dual on Thursday against Palmyra High School.
Tolton’s 170-172 win over Palmyra gave the Trailblazers their second dual victory of the week.
Meanwhile, Parker has been rock-solid, shooting one shot within par in his previous three matches.
“For his age, he’s pretty strong mentally,” Tolton golf coach Dean Gregory said.
Gregory told a story of Tolton’s match against the Missouri Military Academy in Mexico. One of Parker’s shots missed the fairway and ended up in a previous player’s divot, which made his path to the hole much tougher.
Parker got up and down and made par.
“He was right on dirt,” Gregory said. “He had to hit a flop shot off the dirt to a sloped green. He holed it. It was an amazing shot.”
Parker calls golf an art. He has experience in both subjects. At Tolton, Parker takes multiple art classes and is experimenting with pencil sketches, sculpture and photography.
“I’ve always kind of grown up around art,” Parker said. His older sister, Molly Parker, gave him his first lesson: how to hold the pencil correctly.
“She taught me the majority of what I knew before I came to Tolton,” Parker said. “She’s an amazing artist.”
Parker said he isn’t sure if he qualifies as left-brained (analytical and logical) or right-brained (intuitive and thoughtful) since he enjoys math classes in addition to art. Golf, in a lot of ways, is analytical — where to land the ball, calculating yardage, measuring angles — but Parker says that golf has an artistic side, too.
“Golf is a sport that you can be creative with,” he said. “There’s not one way to play the course. There’s countless ways, and depending on the way you paint that, it could turn out differently.”
Joe Bellmer is an assistant coach for Tolton. Bellmer, originally from Sedalia, has played competitive amateur golf for decades and won tournaments all over the state. He said Parker has the skills to make it to the next level.
“He could play Division I,” said Bellmer, a former player at then-Central Missouri State University.
Bellmer said Parker’s ability around the greens is “phenomenal.” He said as Parker ages, his ability to hit higher and farther will continue to improve.
“He’ll kill you with consistency,” Gregory said. “He’s not as long off the tee as he eventually will be. Consistency is the key to his game.”
It’s not clear what contributes to Parker’s consistency — practice, certainly, which he says he does every day in and out of season.
“He has a love of the game not everybody has,” Gregory said.
And that might be the reason he always bears a smile out on the course.
“You’re out playing a game on a beautiful piece of land,” Parker said. “How could you not be happy about that?”
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