Family, friends, teammates and coaches gathered Friday in the Lenoir City High School Hall of Fame room to celebrate senior golfer Jeremy Ellis' signing with Walters State Community College.
Ellis got his first taste of golf as a toddler and quickly fell in love.
"Today's definitely a big moment, and I've been waiting on this for a long time," Ellis said. "I've worked really hard, and I feel really blessed to be in this room and being able to sign today. It just feels like a big accomplishment, honestly. I started picking up golf clubs before I could walk and got my first set of golf clubs at 5 years old. Along the way, I've played a lot of other sports and enjoyed it a lot. I just figured out golf was what I wanted to do, so I stuck with it, practiced and realized I wanted to play college golf at some point. Here I am."
Ellis showed a lot of promise as a young freshman at LCHS and gradually improved each year en route to becoming one of the top golfers in a highly competitive district.
"Coming in as a freshman, the problem was I was too small and I wasn't hitting the ball very far," Ellis said. "I was shooting good scores. My short game was really good, but I just wasn't hitting it far enough to score high enough. As the years went on from freshman year to junior year, I grew a really good 6 inches or more and that added a lot of size to me. I was able to hit the ball a lot farther, and the scores started dropping the bigger I got. The biggest key was I was able to hit farther."
He qualified for the state tournament his sophomore year and advanced to the region tournament the past three seasons.
Adrian Pearce, LCHS head golf coach, said Ellis is "the hardest worker" he's ever coached.
"He's been a big contributor for us, he's always been a role model and he works really hard," Pearce said. "He practices hard and he's grown from like 5-foot-2 to almost 6 feet now. His physical stature and his mental stature have grown so much. In the beginning, little noises bothered him and now he locks everything out and he plays. I'm really going to miss him and to fill his spot is going to be really, really hard."
Ellis garnered interest from several colleges but ultimately decided Walters State was the best route.
Pearce believes Ellis will be able to compete for a top spot on the team right away.
"The thing that separates people in golf is their head and their putting, and those are things he's really good at," Pearce said. "Once you reach the level of Walters State, all of those guys are going to be able to make great contact with the ball and so the things that really separate you are your head and your putting. He's really improved in those areas. He can go and play at a big school. He's still growing and so he's going to be able to hit the ball even further than he is now."
Ellis has continued to find ways to improve during the COVID-19 pandemic and expects to make an impact next season. He plans on competing for two years at WSCC before transferring to a larger four-year school.
He is aiming to play for a D1 or D2 school by the time he graduates.
"A lot of kids on the team there, I'm good friends with already and they've done great things," Ellis said. "They're shooting low scores and playing really well, and I can't wait to get there and, hopefully, start playing even better and lower my scores. I'm hoping that after two years after Walters, I can transfer ... I don't know where yet, but hopefully, I can transfer to another school after that and have another two years."