By Doug Gorman
Jonathan Jenkins' road to golf success has taken some unusual turns.
Not because the former Jonesboro High School student and Mercer University marketing major slices his shots off the tee.
In fact, Jenkins' golf game is just fine. What separates Jenkins from other talented players is the way he came to golf stardom.
Jenkins swung his first club at the age of 10, but didn't play competitive golf until he graduated from high school.
Now he is one of the most talented amateurs in the state. He proved it earlier this week by qualifying for a spot in the United States Amateur Public Links Tournament to be played next month in Cologne, N.J.
Jenkins finished the two-round tournament in second place. After firing a 74 after the first round of the tournament, Jenkins stormed back with a 71 in day No. 2 of the tournament, turning in several birdies on the back nine of the Stone Mountain Golf Club.
"I am really excited about finishing second," he said. "I think I was in ninth place after the first day, and I knew I was going to have to turn in a solid round. It was really nice to qualify because my dad (Larry) was my caddy."
As much as Jenkins enjoyed playing golf for fun, he didn't play on his high school team. He spent most of his spring afternoons with the Jonesboro High School baseball team.
"Baseball is a lot different than golf because you can rely on your teammates to motivate you," he said.
Jenkins also did some swimming and played basketball while at Jonesboro.
It wasn't until he arrived at Mercer that he began thinking about playing college golf.
He contacted head coach Trelle Kite seeking a chance to walk-on with the NCAA Division I program.
"At the time my scores weren't really good and I knew I had a lot of work to do, but I knew I had nothing to lose. If it didn't workout that was okay."
Jenkins improved his golf game every year. During his freshman year he didn't participate in a single tournament. As a sophomore, he made a least half of his team's events. His junior and senior season, he played in every tournament, even winning one event as a senior.
Jenkins is excited about playing against the country's best amateurs next month, but like he as done throughout his short competitive golf career, he's not putting too many expectations on himself.
"I really don't know what to expect," he said. "I don't know anything about the course, so I'm going to go out there and just do my best."
As for his golf future, Jenkins hopes to eventually make a living on the pro tour.