By Wil Crews
Turk Pettit has come a long way from Auburn, Alabama. The senior Clemson University golfer and former Lee Scott Academy alum won the 2021 NCAA Men’s Golf Individual Championship on May 31.
“It was pretty special to go out with a win,” Pettit said on the Observer’s D. Mark Mitchell’s radio show. “It’s what you dream of.”
Pettit finished with four rounds of 68-67-68-70, for a 72-hole score of seven-under-par 273 – the second lowest NCAA Tournament score in Clemson history.
“It’s definitely up there as one of the harder courses I’ve played,” Pettit said. “But I hit it really good the first two days. Second day I didn’t hit it as good, but I made some puts that I kind of think were key for me to win. I went a five-hole stretch where I didn’t miss anything. That really helped me play good the third round.”
Pettit entered the final round down two strokes to Oklahoma State freshman golfer Bo Jin.
“The last round, I got off to a good start, which is needed out there,” Pettit said.
A key hole was the 17th. Pettit hit a massive drive which set him up to two-put a birdie and take the lead for the first time. Jin drove the hole later that day, but was only able to manage a par. Pettit’s zenith came when he made par on the 18th hole. Just 15 minutes later, Jin failed to make par on the 18th and Pettit was crowned the individual champion at Grayhawk Golf Course in Scottsdale, Arizona.
“I thought I needed another birdie,” he said. “Luckily, seven was good enough.”
Pettit joins an elite club of Clemson golfers to win the NCAA championship. He joins Charles Warren, who won the title in 1997 at Conway Farms near Chicago, Illinois. Pettit’s 273 four-round total is second only to Warren’s, which came at the 1998 NCAA Tournament in Albuquerque, New Mexico, where he finished second overall.
The achievement marked just the second tournament win of Pettit’s career. The other came in 2018, his freshman year, at the Irish Creek Invitational in Kannapolis, North Carolina. The Clemson graduate finished his final season with seven top-10 finishes in his eight tournaments.
At the beginning of this season, Clemson golf coach Larry Penley announced he would be retiring. However, he could not go before his current group of seniors finished their careers, too. It must have been worth sticking around for as Pettit sent Penley off with a national championship. In an interview with The Golf Channel after his national championship victory, Pettit talked about the admiration he has for his college coach.
“He has meant everything to my career,” he said. “He showed trust in me. He shows trust in all his players. That is what you want from a coach.”
Although winning last week earned Pettit only the second major trophy of his college career, he is no stranger to earning silverware. In high school, he won the AISA Championship with Lee-Scott in 2016 and 2017. Pettit won honors with his 15-under par 129 for the 36-hole event, shooting 64 and 65, respectively, over the two-day event.
Pettit won the 100th Alabama State Amateur in June of 2016 with a 72-hole score of 278. Two weeks later Pettit captured the Future Masters in Dothan, Alabama, thanks to a six-under-par score 204, including a final round 66 in which he shot 31 on his final nine to win the event.
During his time at Lee-Scott, Pettit was a multi-sport athlete. Pettit was quarterback of the football team, leading the Warriors to the state playoffs as a junior and senior. He was named to the AISA All-Star game in the fall of 2016. Pettit’s acumen for multiple sports led him to be featured in the magazine GolfWeek, in the spring of 2016.
According to Clemson’s athletics website, Pettit’s best all-time round was a 64 – on two occasions. His best shot was a double eagle 2 on a par five hole at Saugahatchee Country Club. He has only one career hole in one – it came using a five iron on the 15th hole at the Indian Pines golf course in Auburn in 2009.
In the days since the victory, Pettit said he “hasn’t done much,” as media interviews and plane rides have consumed his schedule. Furthermore, he isn’t hyper focused on what he will do next.
“I’ll turn professional sometime this summer, I don’t know exactly when,” he said.
Overall, Pettit said winning the national championship was “awesome,” but he’s most grateful that his family was there to share the moment with him.
“I had my whole family there and I’m so happy they got to see it,” he said. “My mom and dad probably liked it more than me.”