Troy Christian’s Conklin overcomes all odds to qualify for D-III state golf tournament

TROY — If there is a script for a golf version of the movie Hoosiers, Troy Christian senior Tanner Conklin began writing it at the D-III district golf tournament at Heatherwoode last week and will look to put an amazing cap on it this weekend at the state golf tournament at NorthStar Golf Course.

In a three-day period, he went from the lowest point of his high school athletic career to his highest.

Conklin, who doubles as a standout goalie on the soccer team as well as playing golf — competing in golf forst the first time this season.

Three days before the district golf tournament, Conklin suffered a devastating injury in a soccer game.

He tore his ACL, partially tore his meniscus and sprained his MCL.

“At the time, I didn’t know if I would be able to play (in the district tournament),” Conklin said. “Then, I got the diagnosis after an MRI the next day. The doctor told me I might be able to play.”

And Conklin said the fact his fall season wasn’t over was a bonus.

“I think if I had just been playing soccer, that would have made it worse,” he said. “So, if there was any way I could play, I was going to try and play.”

Troy Christian golf coach Matt Shaffer had no doubt Conklin could do it.

“What I told him was, my job is to get it OK’d by the OHSAA for him to ride in a cart,” he said. “Because, obviously there is no way he could walk 18 holes. And I told him, his job was to get cleared by the doctors.”

Conklin said he his not able to turn on the ball the way he normally would. And in that short of time frame, he didn’t have a lot of time to prepare.

“I really didn’t get a chance to hit many balls (between the injury and district),” Conklin said. “So, I felt a little shaky going in.”

After an opening nine of 41, Conklin knew he was going to have to do something special on the back nine.

“He just decided to go for it,” Shaffer said.

He responded with a one-over par 36 on the back nine, finish second overall and earning the number one individual spot for the state tournament.

“I give my coach (Matt Shaffer) a lot of credit,” Conklin said. “He did a good job of keeping me in a positive frame of mind. I knew I was going to have play really well on the back nine.”

And when he walked off the 18th green it was a combination of excitement and relief.

“I sure didn’t expect to see my name at the top of the board when I finished,” Conklin said. “I think the other golfers (in his group) were impressed. They told me it was amazing I could do that while playing with what is basically a broken knee.”e

He has gotten a lot of reaction to his accomplishment as well.

“It has been pretty wild,” he said. “I really have a great support group around me at Troy Christian.”

The odyssey began this summer when Conklin made the decision he would play both golf and soccer.

“In my short time as coach, I had always heard there was this amazing golfer walking the halls at Troy Christian that didn’t play on the golf team,” Shaffer said. “During my time as coach, I haven’t had any golfers who were close to beating me. I am an above average golfer.”

So, Shaffer decided to play in a tournament Conklin was in during the summer.

“He beat me by something like 10 shots,” Shaffer said. “It wasn’t even close. The first time I saw him swing, it was amazing. His swing is so powerful. Then, I saw him chipping and putting. His short game is incredible. I knew this was someone who could win a state title.”

And Conklin seemed right on course for that.

He set a school record with a five-under par 31 in match at Miami Shores Golf Course earlier this season. In his first two 18 holes tournaments of the season, he shot 69 at Echo Hills and 71 at Troy Country Club.

Conklin said he has never played NorthStar golf course.

“I haven’t been hitting a bunch of balls this week,” Conklin said. “Basically, I have been playing more and not hitting as many balls. Trying to stay off it and rest it. I am as ready as I can be. The practice round Thursday will be the first time I have played NorthStar. I think so (he and his coaches will learn a lot and be ready to go Friday).”

Conklin has one goal.

“I just want to play as well as I can play,” he said. “Whatever score that is, whatever happens is what it is. I think the big key for me is just keeping a positive frame of mind throughout the tournament.”

Shaffer thinks there can still be a magical finish.

“The injury just makes it more impressive,” Shaffer said. “It would be great if he can be state champion. Any time you go to a state tournament, those are the expectations you have to have.”

Which would be the prefect ending for a Hoosier script — only on the golf course.

You can reach Sports Editor Rob Kiser at [email protected]