Oak Hill Academy has become a golf powerhouse

Wells Williams, right, hugs Carter Loflin after winning their match on the 16th hole during the 2022 US Amateur Four-Ball Quarter-Finals at the Country Club, Birmingham. (James Gilbert/USGA)

The most dominant Mississippi high school sports team in history?

South Panola has already won 89 consecutive football games and five consecutive state championships at the state’s highest level. These teams were so good that people started calling them South Panola University.

We’ve had dominant teams with sustained excellence in basketball, baseball, and track and field from time to time as well.

Rick Cleveland

Don’t look now, but West Point’s tiny Oak Hill Academy — 364 students, K-12 — recently won its sixth straight state championship in the sport of golf.

Phil Ferguson, former Bruce and Tupelo head football coach, says Oak Hill manager and athletic director, “We became the Southern Panola of high school golf.”

It’s not exaggerated – at all.

“I think it’s safe to say that these recent Oak Hill golf teams are the best high school teams in Mississippi history,” Randy Watkins, Jackson pro and golf course owner, told him. -even a former national junior champion. “There have been some really good teams over the years, but those numbers that Oak Hill puts on the scoreboard are just out of sight.”

In the Private School 3A Championship Tournament at the Canton Country Club, Oak Hill won by 83 strokes. That’s right, 83. In fact, Oak Hill could have tallied five scores – instead of the required four – and still won the event by seven strokes. When Oak Hill won the Jackson Prep Invitational at Patrick Farms, the team’s score was 16 under par 272. Oak Hill actually discounted a three under par 69. A score of 69 is a medalist in leak in most high schools. golf tournaments. Oak Hill couldn’t even use it.

Mad? It gets crazier. The last time Oak Hill competed in a golf event and didn’t win was in 2018. Senior Wells Williams, the team’s most accomplished player that year, averaged 67.7 strokes per turn. Williams, also valedictorian in her class, shot an 11-under par 61 in a tournament at The Refuge in Flowood and signed a golf scholarship to Vanderbilt. Last year’s most accomplished player, Cohen Trolio, made the All-Southeastern Conference freshman team this year at LSU. Collins Trolio, Cohen’s younger brother and future senior, averaged 69 strokes per round and has already committed to playing his college golf at Ole Miss.

Without a doubt, Oak Hill would beat many lower level college teams. When it comes to high schools, there is no doubt that Oak Hill could compete at the national level. In fact, several Oak Hill players have. At 17, Cohen Trolio qualified for the US Amateur semi-finals at Pinehurst. Just this week, Williams made it to the semi-finals of the US Amateur Four Ball at Birmingham Country Club. Cohen Trolio is currently ranked the 118th best amateur golfer in the world.

Besides star power, Oak Hill has a lot of depth. Jake Blanton, just a 10th grader, averages 72 strokes per round and seems destined to play Division I college golf. Jackson Cook, a ninth grader and another likely DI recruit, also averaged 72. Seth Lockhart and George Bryan, the fifth and sixth best players on the team statistically, would play No. 1 on most high school teams.

Posting six consecutive state championships, Oak Hill team members (left to right) George Bryan, Jacob Blanton, Jackson Cook, Collins Trolio, Wells William and Seth Lockhart.

So how is this possible, you ask? How does such a small private school produce such a powerful team?

Start with this: The team’s volunteer coach, VJ Trolio, father of Cohen and Collins, is one of the most respected teachers in the country. Golf Digest named him one of the top 100 instructors in the country. This magazine, considered the bible of golf by many, has named Trolio Mississippi’s best teacher for seven consecutive years.

When I caught up with VJ Trolio on the phone on Tuesday, he was in Tulsa helping Mississippian Chad Ramey prepare for the PGA Championship, which began on Thursday, while following Cohen Trolio to an NCAA region in California and with Williams. in the USGA Four Ball Championship. .

Cohen Trolio (right), with his father VJ Trollo, at the 2020 US Amateur in Pinehurst, NC Credit: Courtesy of the Trolio family

“We have a really good thing for such a small school,” Trolio, the team’s ninth-year coach, said, prodigiously underestimating things. “I mean, it’s a small school doing big stuff.”

It helps to have the spectacular golf course duo of West Point, Old Waverly and Mossy Oak, as your home golf courses. George Bryan, founder of both golf courses and one of the most prominent players in Mississippi golf history, has two grandsons, including Williams, on the team. It helps to have Tim Yelverton, another renowned teacher, helping with the program. In any sport it helps to have talent and the West Point area has provided plenty of that.

Hunter Adkins, now a star on the Southern Miss golf team, was the first in a line of future college golfers. Then came Cohen Trolio, now Williams, and many more on the way. VJ Trolio, who played collegiately at Southern Miss and is a member of the school’s Sports Hall of Fame, says the talented youngsters at Oak Hill Elementary School are already showing clear signs of carrying on tradition.

The Mid-South Association of Independent Schools (MAIS), the sanctioning body for private school athletics in Mississippi, does not sponsor golf championships for girls. But an Oak Hills girls’ team has won five of the six events they’ve entered against all-female teams this spring. Two of the Oak Hill girls also qualified and competed in men’s tournaments.

“We have players who will definitely play women’s golf in college,” said VJ Trolio.

How long can this domination last?

“I don’t know, but we have fourth and fifth graders who can really play,” VJ Trolio said. “It’s going to keep rolling for a while.”

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