MYRTLE BEACH, S.C. – Taylor Dickson has a rare combination of skill and demeanor that make him predestined for success on the course. Built like a linebacker, but with incredible balance for the amount of power he generates in his swing, Dickson displays a mechanically sound technique that immediately separates him from the field at the Palmetto High School Championship. To watch Dickson is the only way you’ll find out about his sheer talent, however. The 18-year-old would prefer to play first, talk later.
Overheard on the 16th tee at Barefoot Resort’s Love Course on Thursday was some meaningless banter between playing competitors that said a lot about Dickson’s character.
“Have you ever played this course?” one asked.
“Yeah, last year at this tournament,” Dickson answered, nonchalantly. End of story. Pull the driver, and put it in another zip code. What wasn’t mentioned on that tee box is the fact that Dickson is the defending champion this week at the Palmetto. Sure, he’d like to repeat, but it isn’t all-consuming. And it isn’t mentioned until after the round.
Dickson prevailed in a scorecard playoff at last year’s event, only after shooting a final-round 2-under 70 to find himself tied for the lead at the end of regulation. A month prior, he had won his first FCWT title. The summer after, he qualified for the U.S. Junior Amateur, missing match play by a stroke.
Since that time, Dickson has practically become a new player, and it’s a result of sheer hard work. After taking up with Bruce Sudderth at Gastonia Country Club, Dickson has added close to 15 yards off the tee. He may not boast about his game, but the delight at these results is obvious by his smile.
“It’s definitely gotten better,” Dickson said of his game. “I’ve been working hard at it. Hoping to repeat here again.”
The other three players in his group spent the day well behind him. Accurate iron play also helped Dickson to an opening 4-under 68 Thursday that gave him the early lead in qualifying. The slate is wiped clean Friday morning as teams are flighted for the rest of the tournament.
“He’s hitting the ball so well, it’s just his putting – if he’s rolling the ball well, he’s going to score well,” said Forestview High head coach Ken Beaty. “He’s hitting his irons as good as I’ve ever seen him hit them.”
Dickson missed the first two events of the year with a wrist injury, and Beaty still is waiting for Dickson’s short game to return completely. Dickson hit 14 greens during his round Thursday, and closed the day by rolling in a 25-foot birdie at 18. Not surprisingly, he showed little emotion, but for a delayed pump of both fists.
Dickson, who has signed with Winthrop, is a huge asset for Forestview High School, the team that lost in a playoff to La Quinta High School at last year’s event. The boys from California didn’t return this year, and midway through play on Thursday, Forestview was the only team to make it into the red numbers, shooting 1-under 287.
A victory this year, in just its second Palmetto despite being just four hours away in Gastonia, N.C., would be another in a long line of recent accomplishments for Forestview. The team is playing this week fresh off winning the Big South 3A Conference, and next will head to regionals and, hopefully, state. Forestview won its regional for the third consecutive year in 2010, and tied for the state championship, eventually losing in a scorecard playoff.
What’s important to note about this team is its ability to surge when it matters. Last year at the Palmetto, Forestview shot its best round of the tournament to find its way to a team playoff. At the state championship, the team rallied from a 10-shot deficit entering the final round. Of the two, the Palmetto loss sits more comfortably with Beaty, for that one was contested on the course.
“Any time you come in second like that it’s a disappointment, but we lost on the course,” Beaty said. “We’ve lost a couple times in the last few years on the card, which is very disappointing. So losing on the course is no problem at all.”
Aside from the addition of two freshmen, Forestview returned the same team to Myrtle Beach this year, which is why it came as little surprise when Beaty began to realize just how low his team was shooting.
“They should score on this course because the greens are rolling so well,” he said. “They struck the ball well so that was (conducive) to good rounds.”
Forestview has the come-from-behind show in the bag. But with early-week play like this, Forestview might not get the opportunity for a rally.