Toby Ivey Jr. could easily be confused for a caddie, or one of the local youth who might be working at Hillandale Golf Course to earn some extra money this summer. Having that assumption would be a huge mistake.
Thursday during the first round of match play at the Herald-Sun Golf Classic, Ivey, 16, was one of several teenagers to make their presence felt at the event. Ivey, Scott Campbell, 19, Corey Wilson, 19, and Cole Scearce, 17, all advanced over their much older counterparts. Ivey and Scearce both came into the day as higher seeds after qualifying play, putting additional pressure on their shoulders.
“There’s always going to be pressure when you’re the No. 1 seed,” Scearce said. “Somebody is coming out as a 16-seed and you’re kind of destined to do something.”
Scearce, who attends Voyager Academy, grew up playing at Hillandale, so that drove him even more to have a productive day. He knows the course well, but actually playing for something matters “changes things.”
Scearce defeated Taylor Peel, 3-2, in the President’s Flight. Ivey, the junior medalist defeated Corey Johnson, 6-5, in the Championship Flight. Wilson defeated Jeff Allen, 5-4, in the Second Flight, while Campbell, also in the Championship Flight, defeated Brent Lewis, 2-1.
Playing against older guys, Scearce said, has it’s benefits. The older players give pointers and teach lessons on the course. Thursday, it was the youngster doing the schooling. Wilson struggled on holes three and four, but bounced back nicely on five, six and seven. He admitted he was missing his irons and hitting a little to the left on five and six, but that was an easy adjustment. Once he made the fix, Wilson settled in and cruised to the next round. Playing in the event for the third time, Ivey said the biggest takeaway from years one and two was to not give up when he got down. He was one down against Allen, but once he battled back and went up three, it was smooth sailing.
Ivey got off to a good start against Johnson. He’s birdied the first hole everyday so far, and Thursday was no different.
“That sets me on a pace to do good,” Ivey said.
Ivey, a student at Orange High School, never fell behind, even though he and Johnson were dead even for one hole. Ivey went seven up and found himself in the next round. What’s awaiting for him is more older competition, wanting to see if the babyface golfer belongs.
“I feel like they look at me like I’m not any competition,” Ivey said with a sly smile. “But I want to come out here and show them what I can do. I’m used to having a bunch of kids around me, so it’s definitely different.”
No one has joked with Ivey about his age — “not yet” — but he feels it’s coming the further he advances.
Campbell, who plays golf at Greensboro College, was participating in the event for the first time. Thursday was his first time competing in match play. A wasp sting to the hand didn’t help his swing, and it was apparent as he struggled early. But he adjusted.
“I got up and down where I needed,” Campbell said. “And that kept my nerves calm until we finished.”
Standing at 5-foot-6, Campbell, who called himself a “shrimp” feels like he always has something to prove on the course. Playing against a field of golfers twice his age only added fuel to the fire.
“When people look at me and go ‘who is that shrimp?’”, Campbell said. “But I just go out there and do my thing, hit good shots.”
Scearce said he rarely plays with guys his own age, so he was used to playing with someone older. Still, he and the rest of the millennials want to have a good showing the rest of the way.
“I like being able to say I went to this tournament and placed top four,” Ivey said. “Top four in this tournament is my goal. I want to win it, but top four would be my goal with 93 people in this tournament. I’d be completely happy with that.”