When the weather turns cold and the leaves start falling in Manchester, Ky., Tyler “Chip” McDaniel turns to the gym. It’s time for shooting drills, scrimmages and sprints.
It’s finally time for a break.
As the 2013 13th Region Player of the Year, and the leader of the Clay County High School basketball team, for which he scored 18.5 points per game last season, McDaniel is no slouch on the hardwood.
But he doesn’t eat, sleep and breath basketball like the rest of the state. The winter season is his chance to break from golf — his No. 1 priority.
“If you play basketball here, you’re considered above everyone else,” McDaniel said. “I just love to play. I don’t like to practice all that much. It gives me something to do in the winter when it’s too cold to play golf.”
Said Jason Smith, McDaniel’s golf coach: “By the time golf is starting to end, you can see how tired he is with how much golf he’s played, how much traveling he’s done. You can tell, mentally and physically, he needs that break from golf. I think basketball is perfect for it because it’s too cold here to get a lot of work done on the golf course.”
That formula has worked out well for the junior in high school, who is verbally committed to play golf at Kentucky. McDaniel won the 2013 Junior PGA Championship thanks to his final two rounds of 65 and 69.
“It was pretty awesome to not only play in those tournaments, but compete,” McDaniel said. “There’s a lot of really good players in a tournament like the Junior PGA. You try to learn some stuff and see what they did good, and hopefully they have tried to learn something from me.”
He’s also dominated high school golf in the state of Kentucky, winning Mr. Golf as a freshman, and appearing in the top five at the state tournament for the past five years.
“Tyler does everything pretty well … He hits his 3-wood out around 295 and he can get his driver out there 320, 325 when he wants to,” Smith said. “The main thing that I’ve seen that’s truly helped him in golf being so athletic is how easy it is for him to pick up things. When he and his dad work on trying to hit a certain type of shot, he’s so athletic it’s easy for him to pick up something new.
“If he’s playing on a real windy day, it’s like it’s natural to hit a knock down. He doesn’t even have to think about it.”
On the basketball court, McDaniel serves as the leader of his team as a 6-foot point guard. He said he knew as a freshman when he looked around at his taller peers and opponents that he “might need to stick to golf.”
But it’s his steely demeanor that leads him to success in both venues.
“What makes him so good, and I guess it’s why he’s good at golf, is he’s so calm,” said Clay County basketball coach Robert Marcum. “He’s a very poised individual, he’s an extremely competitive player and he wants to win everything he does.”
Said Smith: “His facial expression never changes. … When I go up to Tyler, I can’t tell if he’s under par or playing terrible. His demeanor never changed. He stays at a steady pace.”
McDaniel has never had the luxury of state-of-the-art training equipment or pristine courses to play. He’ll see a major upgrade when he joins the Wildcats in Lexington.
“He grew up on a nine-hole course that’s really short. We’ve got a driving range, but we don’t have a golf pro. The closest swing instructors are an hour and a half, two hours away,” Smith said. “He’s just got a natural swing that he and his dad put together. When he goes up to college and has the facilities where he can just go in and hit balls anytime he wants to, and has the monitors and shot trackers, the sky’s the limit for what he can accomplish.”