ET Golf: Sellers ready for U.S. Junior Amateur
July 15, 2017 at 9:21 p.m.
It's junior golf's grandest stage and counts among its past champions Tiger Woods and Jordan Spieth. Longview's Rhett Sellers would like nothing better than to join such elite company.
The 15-year-old Sellers will be one the youngest competitors at this week's 70th U.S. Junior Amateur Championships at Flint Hills National Golf Club in Andover, Kansas.
Established in 1948 by the USGA, the U.S. Junior Amateur Championships are open to anyone under the age of 19.
Woods holds distinction as the only three-time winner in 1991, 1992 and 1993. Spieth won the event in 2009 and again in 2011.
Sellers, who tees off Monday afternoon at 2 p.m., is one of six 15 year olds among the 156-player field. He punched his ticket to the celebrated golf gathering a few weeks back in a qualifier at Texarkana Country Club.
Sellers recounted the roller coaster of emotions he went through that day in Texarkana.
"I had teed off at 8 that morning and got off to a really good start. I birdied the first hole and eagled the second. But it went downhill from there and I finished the front nine two over," Sellers said. "I was able to bounce back and shoot three under on the back nine and finish out one under for the round. I just kept grinding."
Then came the waiting game.
Finishing up at midday, Sellers had to sweat things out while the other golfers still on the course completed their rounds. He didn't know for certain if his score of one under was going to be good enough to qualify.
"I think I wound up waiting three hours. That was the worst part," Sellers explained. "Once everyone came in and the scores were recorded, I finally realized that I'd qualified. My first reaction was shock, because I didn't think my score would hold up."
Hold up it did and Sellers started making plans for a trip to Kansas.
Sellers stands tall against the competition. At six feet four inches, the Trinity sophomore looks smooth as silk making a turn on the ball. His drives average 265 to 270 yards and he carries a plus-1.4 handicap. And even though he signs his name right handed, Sellers swings a golf club from the left side of the tee box.
Mature well beyond his years, Sellers appreciates the chance to test his skills against the best in the United States. But he seems to be keeping things in the proper perspective.
"I'm going to enjoy the trip. There are a lot of good players and it's going to be a challenge," offered the young golfer. "I just hope to get into match play after the first two rounds of stroke play."
Sellers' love for the game of golf first surfaced when would accompany his dad and grandpa to the links not too long after he learned how to walk. The romance ignited and took off about four years ago when he started playing competitively.
"I'd been playing baseball for a while and had just got tired of it. I decided to get away from that and focus on golf," Sellers said. "I'm a pretty fast learner and really liked the sport once I picked it up. I really like the feeling of hitting a good shot and watching the ball in the air."
Sellers most recently played in the Patrick Reed AJGA Junior Championship in the Woodlands. He carded scores of 75, 75 and 73 for a 223 that weekend and placed in a tie for 11th overall in a field of 60. His performance drew some attention from a coach from Mississippi State, which served Sellers as added motivation to work harder at his craft.
"My ultimate goal is to one day be a Division I golfer and see where that takes me. It's my understanding that there will be a lot of college coaches at the U.S. Junior," said Sellers. "I like to go out and challenge myself. I'm always trying to shoot my lowest score. That's what drives me when I get on the course."
For certain, Sellers is one to keep an eye on in the future. The sky's the limit for this young phenom.
(Follow George Whitley on Twitter @GPigskinprof)