NORTH PLATTE, Neb. (KNOP) - Continuing to honor the Class of 2020 spring season athletes, two local golfers who excelled on the course as high school students are Paxton's Jeremy McMillan-Peters, and North Platte's Jayden Jones.
(L) North Platte's Jayden Jones and (R) Paxton's Jeremy McMillan-Peters are two of the top high school golfers in the area, each with multiple State medals in their careers. (Credit: Patrick Johnstone/KNOP-TV)
Jeremy McMillan-Peters started playing golf at a young age. McMillan-Peters started going golfing with his grandmother, and that blossomed into a love for the game.
"I started golfing probably around the age of four or five, and my grandma is the one that brought me out to the golf course one day with her. After a while I started falling in love with the sport, I went out with my grandma, it was something to bond with her with at first, and then I started to see this, you could say like a natural talent for it, or something. So, I really liked playing the sport, and I just got better and better as I continued on and grew up playing it," McMillan-Peters said.
McMillan-Peters discovered a natural talent as he got older, and started working with a professional coach before his freshman year of high school, and his hard work paid off. As a freshman, McMillan-Peters tied for 15th at the Class D State meet, earning a medal. Each of his next two years, he improved upon his standing, finishing in fifth place as a sophomore, and winning gold as a junior.
At the State golf meet his junior year, McMillan-Peters knew he was in the lead late on the back nine, and knew he could take home gold if he didn't make any mistakes.
"It was hard for me not to just continue to think about that gold medal around my neck at the end, but I just had to shake that off, completely focus on every single shot on the way through," he said.
"Jeremy ended up winning just with steady golf," said Paxton golf coach Janell Beveridge. "He was aware of where he was, he was aware that it was close, but it didn't shake him. He just said, 'I've just got to play one shot at a time,' and he thrives on the competition. A lot of people would get nervous and shank one, and that might have happened when he was a freshman in a sophomore, but last year he he really came into his own."
Golf is a mental sport, and to be successful, golfers have to be able to block out distractions, and not let mistakes compound. Beveridge believes McMillan-Peters is such a strong golfer because he is able to do that.
"Jeremy has a real knack for patience and control over his emotions, which is big in golf, especially for young kids. I've never seen him throw a club, never seen him stomp around, curse, he has the mindset of a good golfer, and that's helped him," Beveridge said.
As a senior, McMillan-Peters was looking forward to having a shot to repeat as a State champion, but he will not get that chance. However, he is choosing to look on the bright side of the situation.
"I was really bummed, I was waiting all school year for this, waiting my whole high school career for my final season and everything, and then for me to get told that's just all shut down, it was really disheartening," he said. "But, at the same time, I had a lot of people make me realize that I'm going on to college now, I have a future in college golf, so I decided instead of sitting around and moping around about it, I started spending a lot of hours at the course, and putting a lot of practice to get better for my college."
McMillan-Peters will head to Northeast Community College, in Norfolk, next season for school and to golf.
Jayden Jones has been golfing as long as he can remember. His grandpa was the first person to bring him to the golf course.
"I've been golfing my whole life, ever since I could walk and hold a club. My grandpa got me into the game, and he's been my partner ever since. He's been pushing me to make me become a better golfer," Jones said.
Jones started practicing with the North Platte golf team in the eighth grade. He learned early that he would have to play at a high level to compete with golfers from Eastern Nebraska, who had practice facilities to practice all year.
"I didn't realize how big the competition was for Class A varsity, and ever since then I've been kind of pushed myself to become better, and trying to compete with some Class A East kids," Jones said. "I was just like, 'you know, I can be just like these kids someday, and even better,' and I know I am but, I've still got to keep pushing myself and practicing everyday."
Jones did not compete for the varsity team most of the season, but did compete at the State meet, finishing tied for 25th in Class A.
"He's a competitor, he rises to the occasion," said North Platte golf coach Jim Orcutt. "I saw it happen when he was a freshman. I actually played him at the state tournament, the first day he didn't do so well, he was pretty nervous, and shot 87; the second day, 73, and that was his breakout round, I believe."
As a sophomore, Jones tied for tenth, also in Class A, and as a junior, finished in 5th place in Class B. As a senior, Jones would've been back competing in Class A.
With no season, Jones has been playing golf nearly every day, to get ready for college. He will be attending Southeast Community College next year.
Orcutt is not surprised Jones continues to golf so often. "He does play a lot of golf, and he likes playing, he also likes to practice, but not as much as he likes to compete," he said.