By PATRICK MacCOON
With a calm demeanor and strong work ethic, Paker Gray and Cade Puryear put forth outstanding showings on the links over their prep careers for Walker Valley.If helping the Mustangs earn a third-place finish at the TSSAA large class state championship was not cool enough, the close friends both were able to sign college golf scholarships on Monday afternoon.Gray made his commitment to Lee University official, while Puryear became the first male golfer ever at his school to sign a Division I scholarship with Tennessee Tech.
With a calm demeanor and strong work ethic, Parker Gray and Cade Puryear put forth outstanding showings on the links over their prep careers for Walker Valley.
If helping the Mustangs earn a third-place finish at the TSSAA Large class state championship was not cool enough, the close friends both were able to sign college golf scholarships on Monday afternoon.
Gray made his commitment to Lee University official, while Puryear became the first male golfer ever at his school to sign a Division I scholarship with Tennessee Tech.
“They put in all the hard work,” WVHS 12th year golf coach Bob Williams said. “From day one they told me they wanted to play college golf. They went to three straight championships. For us to finish third this year was just a testament to them and how dedicated they were to the game.”
The opportunity to take their game to the next level brought chilling memories for both of when they both first began playing the game.
“I still remember when I was really young at Rolling Hills Golf Course in Cleveland, which isn’t even in existence anymore,” Gray said. “I vaguely remember going there. It’s crazy to think that golf would become the major factor that it is in my life now.”
For Puryear, golf has been a major part of his family.
His uncle and fellow left-handed golfer Eric Axley is a 43-year-old professional golfer, who tied for ninth at the U.S. Open in 2008 when Tiger Woods won with a 1-under-par score. It is Woods’ last major championship.
Taking all the tips and rounds he could with his uncle and other family members has certainly helped Puryear.
“One of the main dreams I have had my entire life was to play Division I golf,” Puryear said. “I have practiced and practiced and really worked for it. My family has always supported me and I am very grateful.”
Puryear won this year’s region tournament with a 71 (1-under-par) at Bear Trace. He also won a one-hole district tournament playoff over Gray for the low-medalist honor.
There is hardly any love lost between the two teammates.
“It was a lot of fun to play with Parker,” Puryear said. “We were able to win three straight district and region championships together and really came a long way since we were freshman. We still plan to play together when I come home to visit.”
Gray was able to earn all-state honors this past October with a 3-over-par finish at the state tournament that placed him in a three-way tie for eighth place. He finished with a 1-under-par 71 on the final day to crack the Top 10.
Puryear sunk a long 25-foot birdie putt with a challenging right-to-left hook on his final hole at the state tournament where he finished in a tie for 17th overall.
“They both know how to manage courses and how to get out of trouble when they need to,” Coach Williams said. “They did a good job of not letting a bad shot affect them. You have to keep your emotions in check when you play golf and they do that.”
Another memorable moment for Gray was golfing in the sixth annual East vs. West Junior Cup, which featured the top 10 junior golfers from both sides of the state.
The right-handed swinger helped lead the East squad to a 12-2 victory in singles as he won his head-to-head match up and eagled a par-five 570-yard hole at The Grove.
“It really means a lot to me to sign with Lee and stay home,” Gray said. “I knew I wanted to play college golf and set that to be my goal in middle school. I plan to work really hard and hope to play in every tournament start to finish.”
In a sport where frustrations can get the best of a golfer at times, both Mustang standouts seem to be very level-headed as they will take a leap to the college tee boxes next season.
Puryear and Parker, in fact, carried out the strong tradition for the Walker Valley golf program. The Mustangs have now won 11 of the past 12 district championships and have six region championships as well.
“Both schools are getting great golfers and great young men,” Williams said. “They are going to continue and put the work in. Their free time consists of playing golf as much as possible. I see them making an impact at the next level early.”
Print subscribers have FREE access to clevelandbanner.com by registering HERE
Non-subscribers have limited monthly access to local stories, but have options to subscribe to print, web or electronic editions by clicking HERE
We are sorry but you have reached the maximum number of free local stories for this month. If you have a website account here, please click HERE to log in for continued access.
If you are a print subscriber but do not have an account here, click HERE to create a website account to gain unlimited free access.
Non-subscribers may gain access by subscribing to any of our print or electronic subscriptions HERE