Orange and purple have been favorite collegiate colors for golf standout McKenzie Talbert over the years, and they surrounded her Wednesday at Strom Thurmond High School, as she signed the paperwork to play for Clemson University.
The scholarship-winning honor student has been the Rebels’ top golfer since seventh grade, earning a spot among the South’s top junior players. She’s on track to become part of Clemson’s first-ever women’s golf team.
“My parents are big Clemson fans, and Clemson’s always meant a lot to me, so it wasn’t much of a decision,” she said.
The 17-year-old, who started playing golf at age 3 and began competing at age 7, said she plans to major in accounting. “Well, you’ve got to know how to count, to play golf,” she said, with a laugh.
As for golf, she said, “I’ve been at it a long time ... It was actually an accident. I was at a babysitter’s house, and she had some (gear) lying around, and we went to play, and that’s when I picked it up, and I haven’t put it down since.”
She also has kept close to her books and now sports a grade-point average of 4.376 on a weighted scale (giving credit for advanced-level classes).
Among Talbert’s contemporaries is former North Augusta High School star Matt NeSmith, now in his freshman year on the golf team at South Carolina.
“She’s very, very good. She’s very feisty. She’s got a lot of heart,” he said. “I’ve known her since we were both little.”
Talbert confirmed that the last few days have brought a mixture of anxiety and excitement.
“It’s a really big deal. I live in such a small town, and everyone knows everything, and it’s just really cool walking up and down the halls with all your teachers congratulating you, and it’s just an awesome feeling knowing everyone’s behind me.”
Talbert’s achievements have included winning the individual state title as a freshman, sophomore and junior. She’s also the Carolina Girls’ Player of the Year.
Factors in her favor over the years have included living within putting distance of the golf course at Mount Vintage Plantation, in Edgefield County. Her parents bought a home there before the course was developed, and it opened for business in 2000, just in time for a little girl with a keen interest in golf.
Staff Photo by Bill Bengtson Strom Thurmond’s McKenzie Talbert, seated second from right, is pictured with family and supporters after signing a scholarship to play golf for Clemson University. Seated with her, from left, are superintendent of Edgefield County’s public schools Greg Anderson, Strom Thurmond principal Jill Jett and her father Ken Talbert. Standing, from left, are Strom Thurmond athletic director Louis Scott and Rebels’ golf coach Nick Lorimer.×