12-year-old hopes to join ‘champions’ list

Jacob Blanton with his sister, 10-year-old Natalie Blanton.
Staff Writer

Celebrating it’s 30th year since opening for play in 1988, Old Waverly is accustomed to hosting champion golfers — it’s already been home to such championships as the 1999 U.S. Women’s Open, the 2014 Handa Cup, and the 2015 Southern Amateur to name just a few — as well as champions from other sports who enjoy outstanding golf and unmatched Southern charm.

Last year’s PGA Player of the Year, Justin Thomas, is among its members.

Now with its sister course, Mossy Oak, attracting rave reviews as the number 3 new course in the country, that list will only grow, especially with the U.S. Women’s Amateur coming to Old Waverly next year and the Mississippi State men’s and women’s golf teams calling Mossy Oak home.

It’s junior program also is a training ground for future stars. Just look at the Oak Hill Academy golf team that has won back-to-back state titles and is stocked with young talent trained at Old Waverly, including the sons of Old Waverly teaching pro V.J. Trolio.

And another young gun has his sights set on etching his own name in championship lore somewhere one of these days.

And 12-year-old Jacob Blanton, a homeschooled sixth-grader who is the son of Crystal and Troy Blanton of West Point, got warmed up by winning the Mississippi Junior Golf Association’s Division D Player of the Year title last year.

It came after he won the Boys Junior Amateur, the Greenwood Junior, the Randy Watkins Junior and the Future Tour Championship. He tied for first at the Pros of Tomorrow but lost the title in a scorecard playoff.

Jacob officially picked up the game four years ago when the family moved from Rutherford County, Tenn., to Clay County and he got involved in Old Waverly’s junior program. Already his grandfather had seen a natural look to his swing when taking him out to knock around on the course and with lessons, that “natural” swing has taken off.

It’s only a little ironic that Justin Thomas, who is a member at Old Waverly, is Jacob’s favorite golfer.

“He’s fun,” Jacob says of Thomas who had a break-out season last year.

Thomas’ success also serves as an inspiration, especially since Thomas, at 5-10 and about 160 pounds, is not big in stature.

“Yes it does,” he says when asked if Thomas’ success is a reminder to focus on the fundamentals of his swing and technique.

“He shows you don’t have to be big to hit it long or to win,” he says.

And if Alabama, Thomas’ alma mater, came knocking one day in search of Jacob’s golf talents, he wouldn’t mind going there, even if mom isn’t a big Alabama fan.

But even Jacob is practical: “I’ll go wherever they make me the best offer,” he says, stressing that he intends to get an education regardless of golf.

But for now, he’s trying to stay grounded.

“Putting,” he says when asked the part of his game that needs work, agreeing with his mother that putting is 95 percent of success in the game.

His favorite courses aren’t really a surprise, based largely on what he’s played or seen on TV.

Lake Caroline where the Randy Watkins tournament is played is his favorite in the state outside of Old Waverly. He classifies the new Mossy Oak as “tougher” because of its links style.

On his wish list, like so many other golfers, is Augusta National, home of the upcoming Masters. Second on his list is TPC Sawgrass with its trademark 17th island green.

Other than college and knowing he wants to play professionally one day, his goals remain pretty modest day-to-day.

“It’s just playing golf,” he says, a big smile flashing across his face.

He’s already had some memorable shots, including holing out from 140 yards for an eagle on the 15th hole at the Greenwood Junior last September on the way to a round of 37-35-72.

“I didn’t even know it went in,” he said of the shot.

But while the shot was memorable, he followed it with a double bogey on the next hole. He admits he “learned some lessons” from that experience.

“You learn from things like that. If it was easy, it wouldn’t be fun. It takes a lot of patience,” Crystal Blanton says as Jacob practices his putting.

Jacob is moving up to the more competitive Southern Junior Golf circuit this year and is looking forward to playing the Future Masters in Dothan, Ala., for the third time.

Last year, he missed the cut in the 11-12-year-old division as one of only a few 11 year olds in the field of 80.

That, too, has been a learning experience, realizing the competition and what it takes to do well, he nods in agreement with his mom.

As for the rest of the family, Jacob already beats his dad, at least according to mom. And mom can’t play; “She misses the ball,” 10-year-old fourth-grader Natalie Blanton gleefully tells a visitor.
“I can’t do it,” mom admits.

So that leaves Natalie, with whom there is some friendly competition and brotherly love all wrapped into one.

“We’re pretty competitive,” Jacob says of Natalie, who also is a competitive cheer athlete.

But when they aren’t trying to out do each other, they are supportive.

“He caddied for her last year in Greenville. He played in the morning and she was later. It was so sweet. She shot two-under,” Crystal Blanton recalls.

“I enjoy watching them play,” mom says, acknowledging she basically was golf illiterate just a few years ago.

If Jacob has a matter-of-fact, not-too-serious approach for now, it may come from mom and dad.

“I don’t really fret over their games or their scores. You know, I just want him to do his best, to be there and support them,” she says.