Whit Byrd admits that his favorite part of golf is the individual aspect of the game. Whether or not you succeed or fail is between you and the course.
“You’re out on the course, you’re playing against yourself,” Byrd said. “It’s a sport that is really based on your individual performance. That’s the reason why I got into golf to begin with. In golf, if you hit a bad shot, the only person to blame is yourself.”
However, when it comes to his favorite memories playing golf for the Alexander Spartans, Byrd hits on a team aspect.
The Spartans qualified as a team to the 2019 district tournament. When Byrd went to tee off in another district tournament, he had his teammates there with him.
“The previous year I had qualified for districts individually, however, qualifying as a team was really special,” Byrd said. “We were the first golf team that qualified for districts from Alexander that my golf coach knows of, and getting to be a part of history like that is really cool.”
Byrd will continue to enjoy both parts of golf — the individual competition with team aspect — for the next four years. The 2020 Alexander High School graduate officially signed a letter of intent earlier this month to play golf at the University of Rio Grande.
Byrd said there were many reason why joining the Redstorm’s program was the right call.
“First off it was close to home,” Byrd said. “I wasn’t interested in living hundreds of miles away from home. From a golfing standpoint, the Rio Grande golf team is a very competitive team. They have immense talent and it was a team that I wanted to be a part of. From an education standpoint, Rio Grande offers the exact program that I wanted to major in college.”
Byrd said he will major in wildlife conservation.
Rio Grande is coached by Keith Wilson. Fellow Tri-Valley Conference alums in Jensen Anderson (Southern) and Levi Chapman (Meigs) were underclassmen at Rio Grande last season.
“I was already leaning towards Rio Grande before I visited other colleges,” Byrd said. “Rio Grande has recruited very talented golfers that are from the southeastern Ohio region. Some of these golfers I know and have even played against in high school. Already knowing some of my future teammates was a big reason why I chose Rio Grande.”
Byrd is one of the most prolific golfers in Alexander history. He helped the Spartans win the TVC-Ohio title the last two seasons, with the 2019 crown coming outright. A four-time all-league selection, Byrd was named the TVC-Ohio MVP after his junior and senior years.
Byrd came just a stroke away from qualifying for the state tournament as a senior.
“Whit coming into the Alexander golf program as a freshman was a strong golfer, but each year he improved tremendously and by his senior year he obviously was one of the top kids that I have coached in eight years,” Alexander golf coach Eric Lindner said. “His work ethic in the classroom and his ability to figure out ways to help himself improve on driving, putting and chipping are amazing.”
Moving onto the collegiate level, Byrd said improving his distance will be a top priority.
“By no means am I a short hitter, but the courses that I will be playing at in college are a lot longer than the courses that I played at in high school,” he said. “Being able to hit the long ball off the tee, and being able to hit your irons far can really shorten up a golf course.”
Byrd has been able to continue working on his game even during the current pandemic. He said he’s paid nearly daily visits to the Meigs Golf Course and the Riverside Golf Course. He also competed in the Meigs junior golf league over the summer.
“Everyday I’m out playing, hitting balls at the driving range, or doing golf drills,” Byrd said. “Some days I’m doing all three.”
Byrd will soon be able to join a team again, and practice alongside his friends. Those were also come of his favorite Alexander memories.
“Practicing with my teammates almost everyday in the summer has to be high on the list of favorite memories,” he said. “Some of my best friends were on that golf team, and it was a ton of fun getting to play golf with them. I could talk about my favorite memories of playing for Alexander for hours because there are just so many of them.”
Similarly, Byrd said he could go down a long list of people who helped him get to where he is today.
“I’d like to thank my family,” Byrd said. “They were always super supportive throughout my high school career. Specifically I’d like to thank my parents (Kristy and Todd Byrd). They understood how much golf meant to me, and during the summer they would let me practice just about everyday. A big thank you goes to my high school coach Eric Lindner, and his son Blake Lindner. Both of them played a huge role in my improvement. They not only encouraged me, but they also challenged me. Without them I doubt I’d be playing golf for the University of Rio Grande.”
Eirc Lindner has no doubt that Byrd will leave his mark on Rio Grande’s program, just like he did at Alexander.
“At the next level at Rio, I believe he will rise to be one of the best that program has ever witnessed,” he said. “He definitely fits the mold of calm, cool, collected.”