The Postman from page 6 Poston’s father’s, James Tyree Sr. — who goes by Ty — along with his mother, Cheryl, and brother, Bailey, all watched anxiously from outside the ropes during the Wyndham Championship. Yet, perhaps the second-most celebrated person on that magical Sunday at Sedgefield was Poston’s 85-year-old grandfather, a Hickory commercial real-estate agent named Charles (“Doc”) Cunningham. When J.T. was 3, “Pa Doc,” as Poston calls him, cut down a persimmon 5-wood, pried off the sole and took the weight out to create his grandson’s first club. Poston said he inherited an ideal role model in his grandfather, who played in two U.S. Senior Amateurs and two British Senior Amateurs, and has shot his age more than 600 times. “I remember growing up, he just hit it — similar game to myself,” Poston said. “Nothing flashy off the tee, but he kept it in front of him and his short game was unbelievable. That was kind of how I learned to play golf was watching him at a competitive level, learning from him.” A talented all-around athlete, Poston grew up honing his skill at Lake Hickory Country Club — like Sedgefield, a Donald Ross-designed course. In 1999, when he was 6 years old, Poston watched Payne Stewart capture one of the most memorable U.S. Open golf tournaments ever at Pinehurst. That moment lit his fire for the sport. “I played a lot of basketball and baseball and golf,” Poston said. “I played some tennis when I was younger, and kind of got away from it for a while. Now I’d say tennis is probably one of my favorite sports to play, along with basketball, away from golf.” During an illustrious, four-year career at Hickory High School, Poston earned All-State honors three times and was conference player of the year all four seasons. His Hickory prep team won four conference championships, three Catawba County championships, two regional championships, and one state championship. Poston was a key member of the 2009 state champion golf team as a sophomore and captured the state individual title twice. Poston also owns a couple of North Carolina High School Athletic Association (NCHSAA) records that include shooting a 63 at Foxfire Golf Resort in Pinehurst — the lowest 18-hole round ever shot in a state championship. Poston appeared in the iconic “Faces in the Crowd” section of Sports Illustrated in 2011 after winning his second straight state title and setting a scoring record along the way. “His tremendous work ethic, focus, www.triadgolf.com
Poston (middle) holds up flag from NCAA Championship. Photo credit Western Carolina University. and determination were on full display (at nal motivation, Poston rewrote the WCU Sedgefield),” Hickory HS Coach Ben Hale record books. Odom describes Poston as “a said. “J.T. is a tremendous person who late-bloomer.” He said his top player relhas an unbelievable desire and passion to ished the opportunity to match up against achieve at the highest level in all areas of top programs — ACC and SEC schools that his life. It was my honor and joy to coach overlooked him in the recruiting process — such a fine athlete. His steady composure to put on a show. “Since then, he’s always and patience throughout high school golf wanted to prove to these guys: ‘You know was always a sight to behold.” what? You missed out on me,’” said Odom. For many, the question is: after an historA two-time All-American and threeic high school career, how did Poston end up time PING All-Region selection at Western at Western Carolina in Cullowhee — a small Carolina, Poston claimed six individual town situated between the Great Smoky and medalist honors from 2011-2015 and finBlue Ridge mountains, where the students ished as the school’s all-time leader in outnumber the regular population? career stroke average at 71.73 over 135 During his high school years, Poston career rounds. He finished inside the indicompeted in mostly state and regional vidual top 10 all four years at the Southern tournaments, and he wasn’t heavily Conference Men’s Golf Championship, recruited by any big-time collegiate golf twice finishing first. Poston was a four-time programs. His efforts to play his way onto All-Southern Conference selection. a few Atlantic Coast Conference schools In the fall of 2013, Poston became just never panned out. the second WCU men’s golfer to top the “Western wasn’t my first choice early GolfStat individual rankings at No. 1, joinon in the recruiting process,” Poston ing his predecessor Matt Cook with that admits. “N.C. State recruited me, but it just honor. Poston competed in the NCAA didn’t work out. I didn’t have the greatest post-season regional field three times in junior resume so a lot of the scholarship 2013, 2014 and 2015, and became the first spots were already taken. I would have Catamount men’s golfer to ever advance to been a walk-on and I was looking for a the NCAA Championship field in 2015. scholarship.” “Carter Cheves was my first coach A visit to Cullowhee led to a scholarat Western; he’s the one who recruited ship and a place Poston could call home. “I me and gave me a shot. I’ve always been enjoyed the atmosphere around Western,” thankful for him giving me that opporPoston said. “It was so laid back. The coach tunity,” Poston said. “And Bryant Odom at the time (Carter Cheves, currently the was a big influence, more so for helping associate head coach at James Madison prepare me to play in the pros. He kind of University) was somebody that I had helped me narrow my focus down and just known for a little while. I liked the guys on let it happen.” the team a lot. It was a good fit, and it was A lean 6-foot-2, 165 pounds, with a somewhere that I knew if I kept playing long and languid swing that generates like I had been, I would get a lot of playing plenty of power, Poston’s game is not time and be able to build off it.” flashy. He does the majority of his damage Around Cullowhee, Poston was fond of from 130 yards and in, dialing in wedges wearing fancy socks, mostly of the Western and draining clutch putts. When he flirted Carolina purple and gold variety. His between top 20s and missed cuts earlier Catamount teammates called him “Jimbo.” in the season, Poston’s confidence never Using the college snubbing as interfaltered.
“He just has that flowing swing and acts like nothing bothers him,” Odom said. “Next thing you know he’s shooting 67, wearing you out.” Poston still works with the same swing coach, John McNeely, who his grandfather chose for him around age 7. In route to Greensboro for the Wyndham Championship, Poston went to see McNeely at Diamond Creek Golf Club in Banner Elk, where McNeely is managing partner. “We were working a little bit on his takeaway,” McNeely said. “That’s kind of all we work on when we get together. It helped him turn away from the ball a little bit better and turn it over a little bit, create that right-to-left ball flight, which is what he likes to see.” “He just gave me one little thought that clicked, and it started working right away,” Poston said. Poston’s Wyndham Championship victory was extremely popular, not only around North Carolina, but across the PGA TOUR. Patton Kizzire waited behind the green for Poston to roll in the testy 4-footer for par on 18, while Denny McCarthy, was doing his best to get back to Sedgefield in time. “I’m in the middle of a laundry cycle at the hotel,” McCarthy said with a laugh. “And I just left my clothes in the wash right now. I wouldn’t miss this. He’s been a great friend to me the last couple years and he deserves this so much. He’s always shot me a text when I have success, or when I’m down.” Keith Mitchell, who won The Honda Classic earlier this season and rooms with Poston in a house in St. Simons Island, Ga., said he was trying to calm himself in front of the TV. Poston had been there waiting for Mitchell when he won The Honda, and Mitchell badly wanted to return the favor. He even tried to rent a plane to get to Greensboro in time to watch the back nine. Alas, Mitchell was told the weather was too poor. “We tried everything we could,” he said. But the happiest beneficiary may have been tiny Western Carolina University and its golf team. “Western Carolina golf just took a huge step,” Eckberg said. “This is great for our program in so many ways. He is such a class act and I couldn’t be prouder of him and what this does for him. Our team is going to come in this fall more fired up than ever before. It’s just like when he got his PGA TOUR card — it elevates our program and the way we’re viewed that we’re able to develop players like this. It gives our players an extra drive; and it gives our alumni that pride everyone’s feeling right now. “The J.T. impact for us will carry on in a big way.” TRIAD GOLF TODAY • SEPTEMBER 2019
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