By Christian Malone, The Valdosta Daily Times
VALDOSTA - Tyler Hogan, one of the standouts on the Lowndes High boys golf team that dominated Region 1-AAAAA the last two years, has signed a letter of intent to play for Georgia Southwestern next year.
"I'm getting a golf scholarship, and I like it," Hogan said. "I was real happy. I look forward to it. It feels cool to say you're a collegiate athlete."
Hogan is ready for the challenge of transitioning to college golf at Georgia Southwestern.
"I think I'll fit in well there," he said. "Golf is a big sport there. I feel like I know what it takes to compete, and this team can play. So it will be fun."
"I am so happy to see Tyler get a chance to go up there and play," Lowndes head coach James Brown said. "He's got a great opportunity to play golf and get an education, which is the most important thing."
Hogan had interest from several schools. He initially committed to play for Barry University in Miami Shores, Fla., but decommitted last November and started looking at other schools, including Georgia Southwestern. Now he's glad he did.
"I went up there (to Georgia Southwestern), and I liked it. They offered a full ride, so I said, ‘I'll take it,'" Hogan said. "The people up there were real nice, and I liked the campus and the guys on the team. It's a good atmosphere.
"I'm happy where I'm going. I'm close to home, only two hours away. If you get too far from home, there's no calling Mama when you need her."
He also wanted to go to a school where he could compete for playing time early, and feels he will have that chance at Georgia Southwestern.
Hogan and Lowndes' golf team won their second straight Region 1-AAAAA title this year, and finished the season playing in the state tournament.
"We had such a great team here. I'm going to miss it," Hogan admitted. "Trey (McQuaig) signed with Darton, and our three sophomores are awesome (Sam Straka, Sepp Straka and Ty Howze). We had a great season, and it was fun to end it the way we did, winning back-to-back regions. We took second at state my junior year, and I got second (individually); that was great.
"It meant more to me (to win the region title again in 2009) than anyone. I was about in tears. It was especially fun the way we won it over Colquitt. They were beating us by two, then we came back. We played good, and barely won it."
Hogan's top individual highlight at Lowndes came his junior year, when he finished second at the state tournament, and helped the Vikings take second in the team standings.
"Last year at state, I careered it," Hogan said. "That kid from Harrison, James White, who went to (Georgia) Tech, also careered it. He played great. He beat me by six shots, and I beat the (third-place finisher) by six shots. That's 12 shots between first place and third. I played good. My middle 27 holes, I shot 7-under."
In 2008, Lowndes also won the Vidalia tournament, one of the biggest in the state. This year, the Vikings set a tournament record in winning the Blue Devil Invitational in Tifton, when five players shot under par, and the sixth (whose score didn't count) shot an even-par 72.
"Winning Vidalia was huge, because there were 49 teams, and it's two days. Those were some of the best teams from Georgia, South Carolina, Tennessee, North Carolina, and when we won that, it felt real good," Hogan said.
Hogan won the Dynamite Goodloe tournament at the Valdosta Country Club his freshman year. He's won four Georgia State Golf Association tournaments. He finished second at the Georgia PGA Tour Championship, and had a top-10 finish in an American Junior Golf Association tournament. He also played in the Future Masters in Dothan, Ala., one of the top junior tournaments in the country. When he was 15, he got to play in the Golden Isles Amateur in Brunswick, a tournament that included a number of college golfers.
"He's been a real steady player for us for the past four years," Brown said. "He contributed from his freshman year to his senior year. He was consistent, and he got better each year."
Hogan initially found out about Georgia Southwestern through the school's athletic director, Jaclyn Kaylor, who worked at Lowndes several years ago. Then golf coach Stan Shurling urged him to visit the campus.
"I drove up there on a Friday morning, and (Shurling) showed me around," Hogan said. "The practice facilities up there are great. They're putting so much money into their golf program, and the campus. I met a bunch of cool people and played golf with (the team). I liked it. This is someplace I can get schoolwork done and play golf, and still have fun. This is a good place for me."
Shurling gave Hogan the maximum scholarship he gives. Plus, Hogan has earned the HOPE Scholarship, so he will basically be getting a full ride to college.
"He's a good young man who has done well academically," Brown said. "He has HOPE, and that will pay for a lot of his tuition."
Hogan plans to major in political science at Georgia Southwestern, then wants to go to law school. He's wanted to be an attorney for a long time.
He expects to play in a number of tournaments this summer, before heading off to college. He also said he would attempt to qualify for the British Amateur. He says playing in a tournament in Europe would be a dream for him.
Hogan has made two hole-in-ones in his life, one at Francis Lake, his home course, and one at Kinderlou Forest. He also had another one, but did not have a witness when he made it.