Jackson senior Seth Waters only has one more season of high school sports left with the boys golf team, but before it begins he secured at least two more years of playing golf by signing with Mineral Area College last week.
Waters, who also was a Class 5 All-State running back for the Indians football team this past fall, did not start playing golf until he was in eighth grade. The only reason Waters picked up a golf club in the first place was because a group of his friends were playing and invited him to play one day.
“We went out and played, and I just instantly fell in love with it after that,” Waters said. “I love how hard it is because it’s such a challenge, and I’m very competitive. I think just having a challenge every time I play is what makes me want to keep playing [golf].”
Last season as a junior, Waters helped Jackson boys golf win its first state championship in program history as the Indians won with a combined score of 611. Waters placed 36th overall in the Class 4 State Tournament, while his first-round score of 78 helped the Indians place second heading into day two.
Waters also helped Jackson win the SEMO Conference, Class 4 District 1 and Class 4 Sectional 1 Championships for the second-consecutive season.
“MAC is getting a great golfer, and they are also getting a great leader out of Seth,” Jackson boys golf head coach Zack Walton said. “He’s the type of kid that gets along with everybody — the kids gravitate towards him. He’s come so far from his eighth grade year, and that just comes from the time and effort that he’s put into the game. Every day in the summer, that kid is out there working on his swing and trying to get better.”
The biggest improvement Coach Walton said he noticed about Waters’ game now is his swing, while more recently he has become “a lot stronger.”
Anyone who watched a Jackson football game this season could also attest to Coach Walton’s statement as Waters recorded 1,640 yards all-purpose yards while scoring 18 touchdowns on 231 touches on offense. He also helped lead the program to play in the Class 5 State Championship game for the first time in 24 years.
“[Winning a state championship in golf and playing for a state title in football] were two of the coolest experiences I think anyone in high school could have,” Waters said. “I’m very grateful that I got that opportunity, and unfortunately we didn’t get the win in football. Both of those experiences are something I’ll never forget.”
Now that his football career is over, Waters has been able to focus 100% of his time on playing golf, which will be huge for this season as Jackson will enter the season as the defending state champions.
Last year’s golf team was senior heavy as two of the Indians golfers are now playing collegiately. Jackson graduate Case Englehart is at the University of Arkansas – Fort Smith, while fellow 2019 graduate Tanner Walton plays for John A. Logan Community College.
Returning to the varsity squad along with Waters will be junior Carsen Silliman, who placed 22nd in last year’s state tournament to garner all-state honors along with Englehart and Walton.
“My schedule was very busy while playing football, but when you love something that much it’s easy to go out [on the golf course] after a long day of football,” Waters said. “It’s just a love for the game. I’ll definitely miss football, but it feels good to focus on just golf and do everything I can to get better.”
Waters has been focusing on getting back to the fundamentals of his golf game since he took a minor break from playing each day.
Waters said what he learned from Englehart, Walton and Jackson’s other 2019 graduate Tanner Walton was “to work for what you want.” Waters also said those three were always at the golf course, which motivated him to be there as well.
Waters has developed quite the relationship with his head coaches and really started to work with Coach Walton his sophomore year, whom Waters said has been key to helping him with his swing.
“[Coach Walton] has helped me with so many things within my swing and the mental aspect — just everything,” Waters said. “Also Larry McKinney has been a great mentor for me. He’s helped me beyond what I can even imagine, so I just thank both of them for all they have done for me.”
Waters said he really became closer with Coach Eckley this past fall, whom Waters claims, bug each other more than anyone.
“[Coach Eckley] is an awesome guy,” Waters said. “He’s a super, super great coach, and he wants the best for you. I think that’s what is awesome about him, and I’ll miss him as well.”
Waters will consider playing golf at a university after playing two years for MAC, which is a junior college. Coach Walton said the key for a golfer to play in college is how far they can hit the ball, and he said Waters already “hits the ball out there pretty well.”