Writer: Matt Keating
One of the best ways to become a great golfer is to start at a young age.
Just ask Clay Merchent, a senior at Noblesville High School who was recruited his sophomore year to play at the University of Florida.
“I love playing golf because of the ever-changing challenges it presents and the lessons it teaches you about life itself,” Clay says. “I started playing golf at the age of six. I got involved in the game because I wanted to spend more time with my dad. Over time, I developed a love for the game and eventually played in my first tournament at the age of nine.”
Clay is looking forward to playing golf in college.
“I think the challenge of being a student-athlete will help me manage my schedule and time better in the future,” Clay says. “Plus, I’m looking forward to winning as many trophies for the Gators as possible.”
Clay’s favorite tournament was the Junior Invitational at Sage Valley Golf Club in Graniteville, South Carolina.
“I enjoy this event so much because of the hospitality the facility provides and the fact that I was playing against the best players in the world,” Clay says. “The Jr. Players Tour is also a great event. This is one of my favorite events that I’ve played, because of the history the course has and the challenge a championship course of that caliber presents.”
Clay’s dad, Mike, owner of Purgatory Golf Club, is happy Clay has become a great golfer, but he’s even happier it was a choice Clay made for himself.
“Clay took a liking to golf when he was at a very young age, but it wasn’t something I pushed,” Mike says. “He always had access to golf, but he enjoyed other sports while he was growing up. He really enjoyed playing the other sports, but he just always gravitated back to golf.”
Mike noted that Clay still practices all the time.
“As he was getting older, he started winning some big golf tournaments, which just made him work even harder,” Mike says.
Clay spent part of his past summer in golf tournaments in Louisville, Kentucky and Bowling Green, Kentucky, and also at the U.S. Junior Amateur tournament at the Baltusrol Golf Club in Springfield, New Jersey.
“Clay will be in the Mason Cup Invitational, the Junior Players Championship at the Tournament Players Club, the PING Invitational and the Junior Rolex Invitationals,” Mike says. “He has really strived to become a better golfer.”
Mike added that he is inspired by Clay all the time.
“He’s a really good kid,” Mike says. “He’s an old soul. He takes golf very seriously and is very focused.”
Clay visits a chiropractor to help him with his back. He also gets helpful advice from golf coaches.
“The college coaches at the University of Florida have a lot of faith in the kids in the golf program, and they will be able to help Clay get better,” Mike says. “The Noblesville High School coaches have really been great with helping him, too.”
Mike says that Clay has also enjoyed playing at Purgatory Golf Course.
“He was exposed to golf enough growing up, so I didn’t force it on him,” Mike says. “When he was old enough to drive, he wanted to drive to a golf course, so he really made the decision to keep at it all by himself.”
Mike believes Clay would be great at anything he sets his mind to.
“He’s a good golfer because he’s committed to what he does,” Mike adds. “He will be that way with everything.”
Student Spotlights are sponsored by Ivy Tech Community College and Kumon