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Oak Hill Academy has turned into golf

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Oak Hill Academy has turned into golf

Wales Williams (right) hugs Carter Loflin after winning their match in the 16th hole during the quarterfinals of the 2022 U.S. Amateur Championships at the Birmingham Country Club. (James Gilbert / USGA)

The most dominant Mississippi High School sports team in history?

South Panola has once won 89 football games in a row and five state championships in a row at the state’s highest level. These teams were so good that people started calling them the University of Southern Panola.

From time to time we have had dominant teams with steady excellence in basketball, baseball and athletics.

Rick Cleveland

Don’t look now, but the tiny Oak Hill Academy in West Point – 364 students, K-12 classes – recently won its sixth consecutive state golf championship.

Oak Hill director and athletic director Phil Ferguson, former head coach at Bruce and Tupelo, says, “We’ve become South Panola in high school golf.”

This is not an exaggeration at all.

“I think it’s safe to say that these recent Oak Hill golf teams are the best high school teams in Mississippi history,” said Jackson about and golf course owner Randy Watkins, himself a former junior champion. “Over the years, there have been some really good teams, but those numbers that Oak Hill puts on the scoreboard are just not available.”

In the private school state championship 3A at the country club Canton Oak Hill won with a score of 83 shots. That’s right, 83. In fact, Oak Hill could have scored five points – instead of the required four – and still win the competition with seven throws. When Oak Hill won the Jackson Prep Invitational at Patrick Farms, the team score was 16 less than 272. Oak Hill actually dropped 3 points below 69. A score of 69 is a winner in most high schools. golf tournaments. Oak Hill couldn’t even take advantage of that.

Crazy? Getting crazier. Oak Hill last played in a golf competition and did not win it in 2018. Senor Wells Williams, the most experienced player of this year’s team, averaged 67.7 shots per round. Williams, who also competed in his class, scored 11 fewer than 61 in a single tournament at The Refuge in Flowood and signed a scholarship to play golf at Vanderbilt. Last year’s most experienced player Cohen Trolio this year became a freshman for the All-South East Conference at LSU. Collins Trolio, Cohen’s younger brother and future senior, has averaged 69 shots per round and has already pledged to play golf in college at Ole Miss.

No doubt Oak Hill would beat many lower-level college teams. As for high schools, there is no doubt that Oak Hill can compete nationally. In fact, several Oak Hill players are there. At age 17, Cohen Trolio reached the semifinals of the American Amateur Competition in Pinehurst. Just this week, Williams reached the semifinals of the American Amateur Quad Ball at the Birmingham Country Club. Cohen Trolio is currently ranked 118th among the best golf enthusiasts in the world.

Aside from stellar power, Oak Hill has great depth. Jake Blanton, only a 10th grader, scored an average of 72 shots per round and seems destined to play golf in Division I college. Jackson Cook, a ninth-grader and another likely DI rookie, also averaged 72 points. Seth Lockhart and George Bryan, the team’s fifth and sixth best statisticians, will play No. 1 in most high school teams.

Oak Hill (left) George Bryan, Jacob Blunton, Jackson Cook, Collins Troll, Wales William and Seth Lockhart are hosting six state championships in a row.

So how is this possible, you ask? How does such a small private school create such an energetic team?

Start with this: VJ Trolio’s volunteer coach, the father of Cohen and Collins, is one of the most respected teachers in the country. Golf Digest named him one of the 100 best instructors in the country. This magazine, considered by many to be the Bible of golf, has for seven years in a row named Troll Mississippi the best teacher.

When I caught up with VJ Trolio on Tuesday over the phone, he was in Tulsa helping Mississippi Chad Remy prepare for the PGA Championship, which began Thursday, while keeping up with Cohen Trolio at the NCAA Regional California and with Williams at the USGA Four-Cup Championship.

Cohen Trollio (right) with his father W. J. Troll at the 2020 U.S. Amateur Competition in Pinehurst, North Carolina Credit: Kindly, Trolio family

“Everything is very good in such a small school,” said Trolio, the team’s nine-year-old coach, downplaying the questions. “I mean, it’s a little little school where they do great things.”

An exciting duo of golf courses at West Point, Old Waverly and Mossy Oak helps as a home course. George Brian, the founder of both golf courses and one of the most famous motors and shakers in Mississippi golf history, has two grandchildren, including Williams, on the team. Helps Tim Elverton, another well-known teacher, to help with the program. In any sport it helps to have talent, and the West Point area gives a lot.

Hunter Edkins, who now stands out among the Southern Miss golf team, was the first among a number of future college golfers. Then came Cohen Trollio, now Williams, and much more along the way. VJ Trolio, who has collectively played Southern Miss and is a member of the school’s gym of fame, says the talented kids at Oak Hill Elementary School are already showing some signs of continuing the tradition.

The Association of Independent Middle Schools of the South (MAIS), sanctioned by the Mississippi Private School of Athletics, does not sponsor golf championships for girls. But the Oak Hills girls ’team won five of the six competitions in which it competed with all the girls’ teams this spring. Two girls from Oak Hill also qualified and participated in tournaments for boys.

“We have a few players who will definitely be playing women’s golf in college,” VJ Trolio said.

How long can this domination last?

“I don’t know, but we have fourth- and fifth-graders who can really play,” said W. J. Troll. “It’s going to take a while.”

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