Chandler driving towards success|Washington's 16-year-old golf phenom wins back-to-back WYCC titles

Published 1:25 am Tuesday, October 27, 2009

By By BRIAN HAINES, Sports Writer
To the average amateur golf is viewed as a frustrating sport. Just about everyone that has ever hit the links with a few friends has had their “Why won’t you go to you home!” moment. However, Joshua Chandler is not your average amateur, his puts hit home so often you would think his Titleist has a TomTom in it.
The Washington native is coming off of one of the best four-week stretches any amateur could ask for.
Win the big tournament at the local country club? Check.
Pick up a victory at a Pro-Am? Check.
Win the following week in a superball tournament? Check.
Chandler is winning so much that the only thing that is missing is the actually check, but if the 16-year-old Chandler keeps progressing at the speed of a Tigers Woods fist pump, it may not be too far behind.
Chandler recently shot a 70 and a 74 to win the Washington Yacht and Country Club Men’s Championship, beating out players who have been golfing longer than Chandler has been alive.
The phenom followed that performance up with a mind-blowing 67 to win a Pro-Am tournament at the Carolina Club in the Outer Banks with WYCC golf pro Jeremy Shadle, before taking first in the superball tourney.
The WYCC championship was Chandler’s second in a row. The young golfer has gotten so adept at the course that he estimates that his average is 68. Chandler said his best score ever was a 64.
He shot that when he was 15.
The 6-foot-1-inch golfing sensation plays with the veteran savvy of a golf lifer, and that’s because he is one. Chandler’s parents, Ricky and Bess, got Joshua involved in the game at a very early age.
“I have been playing since I was two,” Chandler said. “By four or five I was starting to swing at balls, but I didn’t actually start playing in tournaments until I was seven.”
Chandler’s father, who Joshua said shoots on average in the mid-70’s, couldn’t remember the first time his son beat him on the links but estimated that it happen when Josh was around seven.
After watching the prodigy drill drives of 300 yards or so, one might think that power is his biggest asset. However, Chandler said keeping his poise on the course is key to coming up on top. It’s a lesson he learned from his father.
“He’s taught me to not get upset and to stay calm,” Chandler said. “He helps me out with my swing occasionally, but mainly tells me to have a good attitude and to stay calm. … It’s an advantage. When you hit bad shots you don’t want your opponents to see you getting upset.”
The way Chandler has been playing lately it’s hard to believe anyone has seen him upset. Mild-mannered by nature, Chandler exudes calmness and said that when he is in the zone his mind is filled with tranquil thoughts.
“It’s surprising, but when you play your best you’re not thinking a whole lot,” Chandler said. “You just kind of let it happen if everything is going pretty good.”
A big part of Chandler’s success can be attributed to his long drives. While it’s commonplace for an amateur to obsess with the long ball and put all their might behind a swing, Chandler said what helps him drive the ball 300 yards is relaxing.
“It’s more about feel,” Chandler said. “I tend to hit it far when I try not to hit it so hard. I try not to get to mechanical with it either. … If you swing hard at it every time your timing is going to be off.”
That relaxed swing has began to draw interest from colleges. Chandler, who is home schooled and in ninth grade, said he has had conversations with East Carolina University.
Chandler said that along with ECU, he would be happy attending UNC, N.C. State, Duke or Wake Forest.
Wake Forest has a rich golfing tradition, boasting alums such as Arnold Palmer, while its 1975 golf team is arguably the greatest college squad ever.
The 1975 Deacons won the ACC title and the NCAA championship, and was led by Jay Haas and Curtis Strange.
Chandler said right now, Wake would be his first choice if the scenario presented itself.
“My number one pick would probably be Wake Forest,” Chandler said. “But I also like Carolina, Duke is a good school and so is N.C. State and ECU. Each one of those would be in my top five.”