It’s been a long time coming, and somebody was bound to do it.
That somebody is Amboy senior Clayton Kemp, who became the first male golfer in school history to earn a trip to the boys state golf tournament. He accomplished that feat on Monday at the Class 1A Oregon Sectional, after carding an 81 at Silver Ridge Golf Course.
He will next tee it up today at the 1A state tournament being held at Prairie Vista Golf Course in Bloomington. The tournament concludes on Saturday.
“It’s definitely an honor,” Kemp said. “It’s been my goal forever to go to state and be the first Amboy male golfer to go to state.”
For Kemp, the trip to state is the culmination of 4 years of improvement as a Clipper golfer. He averaged 46.9 strokes as a freshman, and cut that to 45.8 as a sophomore. The big jumps came as an upperclassmen.
As a junior, Kemp sliced his average down to 43.1 per nine holes, and qualified for the Rockford Christian Life Sectional at Elliot Golf Course in Rockford. There, he shot an 83 and missed moving on to state by six strokes.
“That was a big motivator for me coming into this season,” Kemp said.
As a senior, Kemp is averaging 39.7 strokes per nine holes, and a major contributor in going low has been an improved mental outlook. A wayward shot or two no longer sabotages his round, as it often did as a younger player. That’s something Amboy golf coach Zach Ross has hammered away at – stay focused on the task at hand.
“When he has a bad hole, like a bogey or a double bogey, he tries to keep bringing it up,” Ross said. “I keep telling him to re-focus on the hole you’re playing, because you can’t control what’s already happened. You can control this next shot.”
Kemp found himself in that situation on Monday at Silver Ridge. He was one under par through three holes, but a few bad chips and approaches led to a pair of double bogeys. A decent round was in danger of going off the rails, but he recovered in time.
“It’s helped me to realize that even though one bad shot could affect your whole game, you don’t know how everybody else is playing,” Kemp said. “You’ve got to fight through it, and hopefully scramble out a par or a bogey. Even though that might not be good in your mind, you never know what the other people are doing.”
Kemp has re-doubled his efforts in the last few weeks to be as sharp as possible for the postseason. His father, David – an accomplished golfer in his own right – set up a net in the garage so Clayton could hit balls if the weather was bad, or even if he just got the itch to swing away, no mater what the hour.
“Most nights, especially when I couldn’t come out to Shady Oaks, I’d definitely go to the garage and hit golf balls,” Kemp said. “The morning of the sectional, that’s what I did. I think that’s really helped me.”
Kemp is about as well-rounded of a student-athlete as you’ll find. In addition to golf, he plays second base for the Amboy baseball team. He’s a percussionist in the AHS marching, concert and pep bands. He’s in the Leo and Outdoors clubs, and a member of the National Honor Society and Spanish Honor Society. He also sports a grade point average of 4.058, which puts him on top of the senior class with two of his friends, Mary Thompson and Kaitlyn Ortgiesen.
For now, however, the task at hand is to go as low as possible at the state golf tournament.
“A lot of the pressure’s gone now, so hopefully I will shoot a lot better than I have been shooting,” Kemp said. “I’m feeling pretty pumped for this weekend.”
Locals at state golf tournaments
Class 2A boys: Grant Wasson, Rock Falls, at Weibring Golf Club, Normal
Class 1A boys: Newman (Jacob Rude, Cody Britt, Blake Wolfe, Ty Brockman, Jacob Donald, Josh Payan); Clayton Kemp, Amboy; Andrew Schrader, Fulton, at Prairie Vista Golf Course, Bloomington
Class 1A girls: Bella Heintzelman, Dixon, at Red Tail Run Golf Course, Decatur