URBANA — Parker McClain’s first high school golf season was “definitely a struggle.”
He wasn’t placing first at any of his tournaments as an Urbana freshman last year.
It didn’t take long for McClain to completely reverse that script.
Just one season later, McClain is the Tigers’ top golfer and has earned outright or partial medalist status in each of his last four events.
“It’s been a huge confidence boost,” McClain said. “I’m definitely much more motivated now to go out there and practice and play whenever I can.”
McClain’s run started Aug. 25 at Savoy’s University of Illinois Blue Course, when his 18-hole 83 was good for top position in a dual against Champaign Central. He followed with a nine-hole 40 on Aug. 27 at Mahomet’s Lake of the Woods Golf Course, finishing in a three-way tie for first with two Mahomet-Seymour athletes.
McClain claimed outright victory in his last two events. He notched a medalist 39 at the UI Blue Course on Sept. 4 in a rematch with the Bulldogs. McClain then netted a 40 on the same layout six days later, during a match versus St. Joseph-Ogden.
“Between the last two medalists, I’d say the one shot that stuck out to me was on number four (last Wednesday),” McClain said. “I was about 95 yards out, and I put it within 3 feet. So that was really good.”
McClain, who also plays tennis with the Tigers, credits grandparents Donald and Cheryl McClain as “the driving force in keeping me committed and stay(ing) motivated.”
The younger McClain moved in with them when he was in third grade, and Donald offered his grandson the chance to become interested in golf.
“My grandpa took me down to the driving range with him occasionally,” McClain said. “Just kind of showed me the basics, and ever since then I fell in love with it and I’ve been doing it ever since.”
Still, there was an adjustment period for McClain in making the jump to high school golf.
“The biggest thing I had to learn was just being able to play with people I’d never played with before,” McClain said, “and not letting the nerves get to me so much.”
McClain’s mind is eased whenever he gets paired with junior teammate Matthew Isaacs. The two spent part of the summer together logging golf hours, and it was then when McClain noticed he might be due for some lower scores throughout this fall season.
McClain also praised first-year Urbana boys’ golf coach and Monticello graduate Brandon Wildman, whom McClain said has a penchant for making his presence felt at just the right time during events.
The support system, paired with McClain’s work ethic, has him feeling like he can hang with anyone on any course.
“(I’ll) try and get that medalist spot every single time,” McClain said, “no matter who the competition is.”