Preparing for his freshman season on the Michigan State men's golf team, Troy Taylor hasn't forgotten who drove him to succeed from a young age.
Taylor recalls his mother, Sheila, taking him to a Westerville driving range when he was around 4 years old so he could be introduced to the basics of the sport. He remembers his mother placing the ball on the tee before each drive and then quickly moving away to avoid his swing.
She later would sit nearby reading a book while her son practiced for hours.
"My mom was very involved with my golf and so was my dad (Troy)," Taylor said. "I would beg my mom all the time to go hit balls. She made sacrifices, which I'm very grateful for. No parent would want to go sit out in 90 degrees unless they're also hitting. When I was out there that would be my happy place."
Taylor enjoyed a stellar prep career at Westerville South High School and has played in tournaments around the country. He played with his new teammates, who also will be his college roommates, over the Fourth of July holiday and moves in at MSU on Aug. 27.
"I'm very excited (about playing for the Spartans)," Taylor said. "Every time I come up here (to East Lansing), I know it's the right fit for me. Every time I come up here I get super excited. I know it's going to be a good place for me the next four years."
Taylor had a disappointing finish to his prep career, just missing a berth to the Division I state tournament last fall. In the district tournament at Apple Valley, he shot a 73 to tie Thomas Worthington's David LaLonde for the second individual-qualifying spot, but then lost a three-hole playoff.
"That was a very tough day for me because that was my last high school event and just knowing that I had a really good chance in winning state ranking-wise and my belief in myself," Taylor said. "I thought I was one of the best players in the state. It was tough, but it was a good learning experience. You have to learn how to lose before you learn how to win."
Taylor placed fifth at state as a junior and finished in a six-way tie for 21st as a freshman.
"He didn't make it to state (last season) and the previous year he placed fifth, so the only thing he didn't accomplish, which I think he could have, was win a state championship," former South coach Ryan Rice said. "He is obviously a top Ohio golfer even without the title."
Taylor bounced back from the disappointing finish last season at district by winning a Golfweek Junior Tour event Oct. 28 and 29 at NCR Country Club in Kettering.
"It was a good bounce back just knowing that I'm still the player that I think I am," Taylor said. "I had a successful spring and coming into the summer I've had a couple decent tournaments."
Taylor tied for third in the Callaway Golf/Ollie Schniederjans Junior Classic on April 27-29 at The Country Club of the South in Johns Creek, Georgia. He finished second in the Memorial Junior at Virtues Golf Club in Nashport on June 4-7, edged by Tyler Isenhart by one stroke (214-215).
Taylor's busy schedule continued last week in the IMG Academy Junior World Championships held July 10-13 at Torrey Pines in San Diego. He failed to make the cut, finishing with a three-round total of 14-over-par 230 in the four-round event.
Taylor earned the berth by tying for third (1-over 72) in the Ohio Junior World Qualifier on May 29 at NCR Country Club. The top four finishers advanced.
"Troy is elite in every manner of the word," Michigan State coach Casey Lubahn said. "He's a great human being, great student, great player, great competitor. We're thrilled to death to have him. ... He has a spirit about him. You learn very quickly that this is a young man who is going to be very special in no matter what he decides to do in life. We felt an instant connection."
Taylor's long-range goals include earning his bachelor's degree in business followed by achieving his dream of playing professionally.
After turning pro, he plans to pay back his parents for their contributions to his career.
"The main thing is (to) attend Michigan State for four years -- unless something crazy happens -- but my main thing is (to) walk across the stage to get my diploma and always have that because nobody can take that away from me.
"If everything goes as planned and I keep progressing, (turning professional) would be my next step after getting my diploma."
Taylor's father played basketball at Ohio State in the 1980s and his cousin, C.J. Bryant, is a 2010 graduate of Gahanna who played football at Northwestern.
"Troy is an absolute product of his parents," Rice said. "They're both very kind, very gracious and just the nicest, most respected people you'd ever want to meet. He definitely follows in his mom's and dad's footsteps."