May 7, 2010
BY JOSH PATE
Jay Vandeventer would be considered a finisher. The Tennessee freshman golfer admits he didn't get his college career started as he had expected during the fall season, but when the Vols needed him most, he stepped up.
Vandeventer finished 22nd at the SEC Championships in April, his best collegiate finish, after a 69 in the middle round. It wasn't all cheers and congratulations at first though. Vandeventer struggled to open the tournament and was teetering on another slide in Day 2, but an eagle allowed him to recoup and march to a solid finish. It propelled him to earn a spot on the nine-man Freshman All-SEC team with his 74.67 stroke average.
Now the Tennessean has bigger goals in mind, the first of which is to wrap up his first season on The Hill as strong as he finished at SECs. But he must first make it past "The Front Nine."
No. 1 (Par 4, 405 yards) - Has your first year playing at Tennessee met your expectations?
JV - This year has been really good. I feel like I've met my expectations. I've come a long way from the very beginning, being new and everything and getting acquainted with everybody and the way the college system works. I started off pretty shaky, but I progressed day by day with the help of the coaches. Great supporters and great coaches and great teammates helped me along the way because they've been in the situation before. Overall, the year's gone pretty well. I'm pleased with how things have gone up to now and I'm looking forward to finishing up strong.
No. 2 (Par 4, 472 yards) - What was it like growing up in the Tri-Cities, where golf is big in East Tennessee?
JV - My family is a golfing family. My dad is an only child, and he took the game on by himself, taught himself how to play and just fell in love with it. I've got three brothers - two older and one younger - and only one doesn't play. My older brother, Josh, went to Tennessee High and played golf there, then went to Tusculum and played college golf there. And my little brother is currently playing right now. So I grew up in a golfing family. But growing up in Bristol, I loved it. It's not a big town, but it's been good. The support is one of the biggest things that helped me through, just knowing everybody in the golfing community and all the support that I've had through the years. I can't thank everybody enough for all they've done for me.
No. 3 (Par 4, 384 yards) - You chose to leave Bristol and attend the Baylor School in Chattanooga while pursuing your golf career through high school. How difficult was that to move away from home at such a young age?
JV - It was nerve-racking at the beginning, especially moving everything out of my home to a new place. But I got comfortable because I met a lot of new people right off the bat with the golf team. It was only three and a half hours away, and my brother was in Knoxville. I grew to like it a lot. I'm really glad I made the decision to go to Baylor. Playing golf really helped, because I feel like if I didn't have a sport to play and get to have my parents support me and come watch, it would have been difficult being away from home. But we played in a lot of tournaments and played close to home, so I adjusted well and it wasn't too bad.
No. 4 (Par 5, 568 yards) - Several of your high school teammates have gone on to play college golf. Do you keep in touch with them, or have you played golf with them since graduation?
JV - I keep in touch with all of them. This past weekend I played golf with two of them that used to be on my team. One of them is Keith Mitchell, who is going to Georgia next year, and another is Matt Emery who is at Middle Tennessee right now. Ryan Thornton is at Vanderbilt; I haven't actually gotten to play with Ryan in a while. We keep in touch with each other, coaches and all. Baylor is just one of those schools where you grow like family. We always keep in touch because it's always like a second home to me. Chattanooga, I miss it a lot.
No. 5 (Par 4, 476 yards) - It's almost like you moved back home to attend college in Knoxville. How has it been to get closer to home?
JV - It's been great. As big as Baylor was and all the tournaments that I played in, I was fortunate to have college coaches look at me from all over. When it came down to it, I just had to go with where I felt most comfortable and where I thought I would have fun. Tennessee was it. It was closer to home. The coaches were just unbelievable. The overall community has just been a great experience so far. I'm really glad that I made the decision to come to Tennessee. Having family in Knoxville and Bristol, it's been easy. I feel like if I had gone somewhere else, it would have been hard to adjust. But being in Knoxville and having family here, it's been a good experience.
No. 6 (Par 3, 224 yards) - What has been the most difficult aspect of transitioning to the college lifestyle, even after moving away from home to attend high school?
JV - I would have to say the toughest part, off the top of my head, is time management. At Baylor, we were on campus most of the time. We had multiple roommates in one big dorm and we all knew each other. Being that Tennessee is a lot bigger than Baylor and I live on my own, I feel like I use my time management skills a lot more because things are hectic. We have practice and workouts. Everything is on a schedule and moving quickly. I've adjusted to that pretty well. There are consequences if you don't come to practice on time, things like that. Managing my time and schoolwork, keeping everything flowing evenly, has probably been the toughest part. I've overcome most of it, but I'm still working.
No. 7 (Par 4, 407 yards) - What is your favorite club in your bag?
JV - I would say the driver. When I was little, my dad got me an old Ping diver and cut it down for me. It had a big sound to it. I used to always hit it far and get everyone's attention. When you come here, you have a little competition. But it's always been my overall favorite club. I have the most confidence in it right now.
No. 8 (Par 4, 467 yards) - What is your favorite course that you have played?
JV - I've played a lot of good courses so far. Sea Island has been a good one. But I would say my overall favorite that I've played is probably Pinehurst No. 2. I played it a couple of years ago with my family. It was just an awesome tract.
No. 9 (Par 3, 190 yards) - Do you have specific goals in mind for the rest of your time at Tennessee?
JV - Right now, just looking at the rest of the guys on the team and what they've accomplished, I just want to be all I can be. I want to be an All-America and on the All-SEC team. I've got a long way to go, but with all the support and help from the coaches, I feel that I can accomplish it.