March 15, 2016
By Brad Muller | More Features
As the oldest of seven children, South Carolina sophomore Keenan Huskey learned the importance of being unselfish and looking out for others at an early age. That has translated into a good fit with the Gamecock men’s golf team, which is a dream come true for Huskey.
“I was raised a Gamecock, and that is all I have ever known, so it was a pretty easy choice for me,” Huskey said of his decision to come to South Carolina. “My dad and my grandfather went here too. It’s awesome. I’m living the dream. I get to represent the school that I’ve been a fan of since I was really little. It’s humbling, and it’s an honor.”
“He never asks for anything,” South Carolina head coach Bill McDonald said. “I was walking with him in the first event he played last year and asked him what it was like having breakfast at his house with all of those brothers and sisters, and he said ‘sometimes you get a piece of bacon, and sometimes you don’t.’ It sort of made sense in how he has fit into our program in that he never asks for anything. He is always happy with what he gets. He’s a great kid, and he is very talented.”
That selflessness has resulted with some recognition as Huskey was chosen by his team to begin the spring by carrying his clubs in a special bag provided by the non-profit group Folds of Honor, which provides golf bags with the names of fallen American soldiers to collegiate golf programs to carry throughout the year.
“Folds of Honor hosts the Patriot All-American Golf Tournament each December with all participants receiving a golf bag representing a fallen soldier to use during the tournament,” McDonald said. “They’ll auction them off later to fund the education of the children of those soldiers.”
“It’s really cool that we can do that,” Huskey said. “Coach gave it to me right before we went off for a tournament in Houston. It’s a pretty cool thing that you get to carry that bag around and honor the fallen soldier. They’ve given the ultimate sacrifice, so it’s just an honor for me.
“I was carrying the bag out in Houston. I wasn’t playing very well, but I was carrying that bag. I was thinking that there are a lot worse things going on in the world, and I’m out here playing golf. That puts things in perspective.”
The bag can be passed round to any teammate for anything he might have done really well, or if he went above and beyond what was expected, and it doesn’t have to be golf related. The team is educated about the background of the soldier and the circumstances for which the bag received his or her name. This year’s bag honors U.S. Army Chief Warrant Officer Two Jason Defrenn, a native or Barnwell, S.C., who was killed in Iraq in 2007.
“Our guys take it very seriously,” McDonald said. “They consider it an honor to carry the bag. It’s a cool program to help these kids understand that there are other things out there, other than college golf. I think it’s been a good thing for our program to be involved with.”
Huskey plans to share the honor with his teammates, and vowed to pass the bag along to a teammate before the next tournament. No doubt, having more siblings than “The Brady Bunch” has taught him well.
“There was always a lot going on at our house,” Huskey said. “There’s a lot of craziness. We’re all about two years apart. The youngest (Hayes) is seven years old. We like to be competitive. When I’m home we play a lot of baseball games and things like that.
I’m living the dream. I get to represent the school that I’ve been a fan of since I was really little. It’s humbling, and it’s an honor.
“I’d get put in charge a good bit of the time. I think they liked it though. I try to make it fun.”
Of course, all bets are off around meal time.
“It’s first come, first served whenever it’s time to eat,” Huskey laughed. “We have a big ol’ table, and mom will yell for us a couple of times. If you don’t come, you might be out of food. Breakfast is usually pretty crazy. Mom puts the food out, and we all grab it, and there’s somebody saying ‘I didn’t get any bacon.’ ”
His parents, Victor and Missy, have been supportive of any activities that he and his siblings pursued. While it can be tough for his parents to keep up with all of their kid’s activities simultaneously, they’ve always encouraged them to chase their dreams.
“Mom and Dad have always been really good about letting us do what we want to do, so it’s always been a blessing,” Huskey said. “They’ve been to a few of them (golf matches). They to try to make it to all the local stuff.”
Huskey played a lot of sports growing up, but he fell in love with golf at an early age.
“When I was about two years old, I was swinging golf clubs,” Huskey said. “My dad got me started kind of early. So I’ve just been going at it since then. By the time I was 11 or 12, I decided to just focus on golf.
“From the get-go, I liked going to the driving range and just beating balls. My dad always made that fun. If I would hit a target out there, he’d buy me an ice cream or something. That sort of spiked my interest early on.”
While he’s not getting ice cream cones after matches now, Huskey’s hard work is paying off. He won his first career tournament last fall with a 5-under 205 at the Camden Collegiate Invitational, which helped the Gamecocks capture the team title as well. He shot below par in all three rounds including a pair of career-low 68s. He closed out the fall with a sixth place showing at the Ka'anapali Classic Collegiate Invitational, firing a 3-under 210 as the Gamecocks' low man, and he had the best scoring average for the fall of any Gamecock who played in at least half of the team's events with a 72.33.
Putting up low numbers on the links didn’t come easy. After earning All-American honors as a junior player in high school, he played in only two tournaments as a freshman for the Gamecocks, which he took in stride.
“Last year I was able to develop my game a lot because I wasn’t playing in the lineup,” Huskey said. “I had a chance to work on a lot of things, and the coaches really helped me in that aspect of it. That was able to bleed over into the fall and this spring too.
“The big thing that coach got me doing was just hitting all kinds of different shots. When I came in to school, I really had only one kind of shot, which was a high draw all the time. Coach had me working hard on hitting all kinds of shots – high, low, fades, and all kinds of things. That has really helped me out a lot.”
He began to see that work pay off last summer when he won the state amateur tournament in Greenville.
“I was playing so well, it was like I was unconscious,” Huskey said. “That was a really fun week of golf. I would like to emulate that again sometime. There were four rounds. I think I was 18 or 19 under par for the tournament. I ended up winning by nine shots or so. It was just one of those weeks where I was just ‘on.’
“The hardest thing about golf is the constant grind. You can’t take any days off if you want to get better. If you take a week or two off, it’s like you’re starting from scratch again. Every day you have something to work on. That can be frustrating. Some people say that golf is a lot like life. You can do something right, but still end up in a bad situation. It can be very humbling.”
As he hopes to help the Gamecocks achieve their goals, Huskey doesn’t get overwhelmed with any personal records or achievements, and remains humble and selfless, even if he doesn’t get the last piece of bacon.
“I’m going to let somebody who needs something go before me,” Huskey said. “That’s just how I’ve been raised - to put other people before yourself.”
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