GRANITEVILLE, S.C. – Missy Huskey left her Greenville, S.C., home early in the morning April 24, drove just over 100 miles to Sage Valley Golf Club and eagerly joined her son Keenan’s gallery. With six younger children at home, Missy doesn’t often get to see Keenan, her oldest at 17, play competitively.
Being in the gallery, of course, meant texting constant updates back home to her husband Victor. Keenan had four birdies but also made four bogeys, two of which came at Nos. 17 and 18 to leave him with an even-par 72. Huskey spent most of the day chasing the leaders at the prestigious Junior Invitational and will start the second round three shots off the pace.
Not bad for a player who, less than a week ago, wasn’t even supposed to be here.
“It was a beautiful Easter gift,” Missy said after the first round. The Huskeys got a call on Easter Sunday that Keenan had gotten a spot in the Junior Invitational when another competitor, George Cunningham, had to withdraw. Keenan had planned to play a qualifer for another event this weekend, but quickly opted to play the Junior Invitational instead.
Huskey is one of only four South Carolina players in the field, and a familiar name around these parts because he mainly plays in the Southeast. The farthest he’s traveled was to Northern California for last summer’s U.S. Junior. He lost in the first round of match play.
The Huskeys scrambled to fit the Junior Invitational into their schedules, and Keenan scrambled to get acclimated on a course he had never played despite living so close. Caddie Robert Williams (known in the caddie shack and to Huskey as “Big Rob”) was a major asset, especially on the greens.
“He showed me a few little breaks out here that I didn’t see,” Huskey said.
Huskey is a tall and lanky player with strawberry blonde hair and a soft voice that fits his southern drawl. Google his name and the first thing that comes up is a YouTube video of Huskey holing out for eagle in a high-school match. There were little histrionics – that’s not Huskey’s personality. Hitting greens and rolling in putts are his strong points. Replaying the day quickly in his head, Huskey counted 13 greens hit, which included eight greens on the front nine.
“I felt like it was a course I could play pretty well,” he said after just one practice round to start the week. “…The biggest thing is hitting the greens out here, and I’m hitting my irons pretty good, too.”
Huskey entered the week ranked No. 39 in Golfweek’s Junior Rankings, and the second-ranked player in the state of South Carolina (top-ranked Jonathan Hardee is also in the field). Huskey has committed to play for South Carolina, and it’s all he ever wanted. It was either study at South Carolina and put the clubs away, or study at South Carolina on a golf scholarship. There were no other options.
Asked to reveal his goals for the Junior Invitational at the start of the week, Huskey shook his head.
“It happened so quickly, I don’t even think I had time to think about it,” he said.
A year ago, the Junior Invitational ended with a handful of players fighting to keep the lead through Sage Valley’s monstrous closing holes. When the dust settled, Pendleton, S.C.-native Carson Young had fared the best. Young and Huskey are buddies, but Huskey isn’t even sure Young knows about his good fortune.
Perhaps he’ll see Huskey’s picture in the paper – maybe even with the winner’s gold jacket.