LEACHVILLE For one local Mississippi County golfing enthusiast, a childhood of frequently hitting the links with his father and grandfather has begun to pay its dividends.
Last Wednesday evening, Blake Denny, a 2002 graduate of Buffalo Island Central High School, became the first BIC athlete to sign a Division I scholarship as he signed a national letter-of-intent to play golf at Lipscomb University in Nashville, Tenn.
Long time dream
"Ever since I realized I had some talent at this game, this is what I've always wanted," Denny said about his collegiate signing.
Denny received a combination academic and athletic scholarship to Lipscomb.
Denny said he started playing the game of golf at the tender age of four, playing rounds with his grandfather, Ray Thomas, and his father, Larry, at Big Lake Country Club outside of Manila.
"I really enjoyed playing with my Dad and grandfather," Denny said. "We played on parent/son tournaments and I learned a lot about the game from them."
Concentrating on golf
Denny, who also played base ball and basketball for the BIC Mustangs, put his other athletic skills aside after his junior year and began concentrating on his golf game.
"I really started to get serious about the game when I was 12," he said.
"Since then, I've been solely focused on my golf play."
Denny said he enjoys the calm atmosphere of golf playing and likes the individuality of the sport.
"I play scrambles and other team games for fun on occasions, but I'd rather play in the individual tournaments," he said. "Individual tournament success relies on more personal skills, and I really enjoy that."
The biggest accomplishment Denny has achieved so far, according to him, is the USGA Greystone Country Club Stroke Play Overall Championship in 2001. Denny finished as medalist in that tournament.
"The Greystone was the last ASGA tournament I played in, and winning it was a big thrill to me," he said. "That is probably my greatest achievement."
Denny's list of golfing accomplishments is lengthy and reads like a resume. Some of the individual awards he has garnished during his four years at BIC include Class AA All-State 2000, 2001; Class AA State Tournament 5th Place 2001; Class AA State Tournament 3rd Place 2000; Class AA Regional Tournament Medalist 2001; Class AA Regional Tournament 2nd Place 2002; Class AA Regional Tournament 3rd Place 2002; Class AA District Tournament Medalist 1999, 2000, 2001 and 2002; Manila Invitational High School Tournament Medalist 2001 and 2002; ASGA Joe Boone Invitational Medalist 2000; Lakeview Jr. Invitational Overall Medalist 2001; ASGA Jr. Tour 1st Place 1999 and ASGA Jr. Tour Runner-Up 2000.
His team awards include Class AA 2000 State Runner-Up; Class AA State 5th place 1999; Class AA Regional 3rd Place 2000 and Class AA District Champions 1999, 2000, 2001 and 2002.
Welcomed as a Bison
Lipscomb head golf coach, Ralph Samples said the college is very pleased to have Denny join the Bison golf team.
"We are excited about Blade's decision to sign with Lipscomb," he said. "I feel that Blake has the ability to compete both on the athletic and academic levels. He is the kind of person that we are looking for in a student athlete."
Denny originally began playing golf with his father, Larry, and grandfather, Ray Thomas at Big Lake Country Club. He has since honed his skills under the teaching of Danny Riddle, a golf teacher at Sage Meadows Country Club in Jonesboro and Ted Butler of Memphis.
"I've been going to them for lessons for the past 2-3 years," Denny said.
Denny said he practices with Riddle and Butler approximately once every two weeks.
"I've also learned a lot from Mike Bridges, my high school coach," he added. "He taught me how to become a better leader."
Prior to signing with Lipscomb, Denny had offers from several other prominent colleges.
"I had offers from Betheny College, Lyon, Williams Baptist and Alabama A & M, among others from about 10 other states," he said. "I chose Lipscomb because it is close to home and they have a great religious background. They have also done some renovations to the campus and it is looking really good."
In the future, Denny said he would like to get into the business side of crop consulting, the career his sister, Mandy Mansfield, is employed in.
"I have always dreamed of playing amateur or professional golf," he said. "That would be my ultimate goal.
"I feel I have the talent to pursue that if I work hard enough."
Denny is the son of Larry and Candy Denny of Leachville.