Driving the fairways: Hershal Patel, a senior golfer at West Forsyth, is motivated to be an optimal player

Published 12:00 am Thursday, April 18, 2024

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By Jay Spivey

For the Clemmons Courier

CLEMMONS — It’s perfect that Hershal Patel uses a driver as part of his craft. 

Patel, a senior on the boys golf team at West Forsyth, has a drive to be the best player he can possibly be no matter what it takes.  

Now, possibly the best player for the Titans, he started playing golf in fifth grade and has slowly risen the ranks of youth golf through tournaments in the AJGA (American Junior Golf Association) and the TYGA (Tarheel Youth Golf Association), as well as playing on his high school team.  

“I’ve devoted a lot of time to golf,” Patel said. “I’ve been so committed to keep playing and moving forward. That’s something that a lot of kids, like this commitment is something that I decided to focus on.  

“Like, my friends, I don’t really spend as much time with my friends as I wished to because I really want to keep getting better at this game.”

His golf coach at West Forsyth, Kevin King, sees Patel’s commitment each day ever since he joined the team as a freshman. 

“He was OK,” King said. “He came in in his freshman year I had a lot of kids coming back that had worked, that had all sort of come up with Jimmy McMullen’s, whatever you call that group he’s got. Because Mary-Paige (King, Kevin King’s daughter, who played at West Forsyth and is now playing in college at Catawba) was in there too.  

“He had a group of about 10 or 12 that all kind of came in in the same age group. And Hershal, as a freshman, came into that group and they were all just older, and at that point, they were all just better than he was.” 

As a coach, it wasn’t instantaneous for Patel’s rise with the Titans. 

“I know he played growing up,” King said. “He was not somebody that you would look at in the ninth or tenth grade and be wowed by. He was small, but he always wanted to work at it. So, I think he’s one of those kids that has really willed himself into being a good player.” 

Patel concurred with King in saying he’s more than willing to do whatever it takes to make himself and the team better. 

“Coach King allows me to practice very nicely, like with golf and everything, since Salem Glen has a lot of busy schedules, the men’s golf league and a women’s golf league, I’m a member at Tanglewood, which is very close to my house. It’s only 2 minutes from my house. And he gives me the liberty to practice out there sometimes because of the business at Salem Glen.  

“And I really appreciate that because I get to do my practice routine. Because he knows I’m probably one of the hardest workers that he’s probably ever seen.” 

One of the things Patel is willing to do is take time out from his busy schedule to travel the country to play in tournaments. Being gone almost every weekend to play in a tournament, much like Patel did last weekend in Sevierville, Tenn., he doesn’t feel like he’s lost out on his high school or teenage experience. 

“In the teenage experience and stuff, with it all, I feel like setting myself up for a better future might be a little more important than having that much time because it’s still good to have fun,” he said. “I get to spend time with my friends on the golf course, which I truly enjoy more than any other high school experiences because I mean the golf course it like my safe haven.” 

Rain or shine, Patel can be found hitting golf balls somewhere. 

“I will always be out in the golf course,” he said. “I practice every day of the week. If it’s raining, I’ll practice indoors. And I will always work every day for two hours after school.” 

King, who is retiring after the season, has implemented Patel, the lone senior on the team, as the Titans’ captain. 

“I used to joke with Mary-Paige that I could be happy and never hit another range ball in my life,” King said. “I don’t like to do it. But people like Hershal, they just enjoy just beating golf balls. You know, that takes a lot of dedication.” 

Being a captain is something for which Patel takes pride. 

“A lot of people look up to me,” he said. “I do try to help a lot of players because I’m obviously what is the word for it? — I’m the, I try to like lead the team to success, obviously. They look at me as a good player.”

According to Patel, his best round so far this season is a 74.  

“Even as a sophomore he really couldn’t crack the lineup. He couldn’t get inside my top six as a sophomore,” King said. And then to go from not even being in the top six as a sophomore to being the best player on the team as a junior, and now, maybe even being the best player in the (Central Piedmont 4-A) conference.” 

The boys high school golf season in the NCHSAA is coming to an end soon. West Forsyth, which is in second place behind Davie County in the Central Piedmont 4-A, is scheduled to have a match on Thursday, and it also has matches scheduled for Monday and Tuesday. The conference tournament is the following week. 

“I am currently No. 1 in the conference, the Central Piedmont conference with all the players,” Patel said. “I did make all-conference last year, so I was probably ranked about seventh or eighth in the conference.” 

The NCHSAA Class 4-A Midwest Regional is scheduled for May 6 at Skybrook Golf Club in Huntersville. And the Class 4-A championship is the following week. 

“For us to make it to the state championship everybody will have to have a really good day,” King said. “You kind of expect Hershal’s going to have at least a decent day, but then you’re going to have to get somebody from the bottom half of the lineup is going to have to have one of their better days, one of their really, really better days.” 

Regardless of how Patel or the Titans finish down the stretch, his time as a golf player and a student, which he has a 4.4 GPA, is coming to an end in the next few months.  

“I’m going to miss it a little bit, but obviously all of my friends are local,” he said. “Even if I want to come back, I can just call them and go play with them again.” 

There is also one other birdie for Patel. He and King are going out the same year.  

“Hershal’s been a joy,” King said. “Now, the first we ever played together I thought I was going to have to strangle him because he just kept taking practice swing after practice swing after practice swing. And I finally said, ‘Hershal we could play three more holes today if you didn’t have to take so many practice swings, if you would every once in a while, hit the ball. It wouldn’t take us this long to play. 

‘But he said, ‘Coach, I’m trying to feel something.’ I said, ‘If you don’t feel it in two practice swings move on.’” 

Patel’s drive to be better has changed his personality. 

“Hershal is as low maintenance as you can have as a coach,” King said.  

Even though the high school season is about to end, Patel’s less than two months from graduating, he doesn’t have a college choice yet. All those tournaments he’s played have him hyper-focused on wanting to play in college. So far, he hasn’t received the nibble from coaches he wanted. 

“Unfortunately, I’m going to have to take a gap year this year because I did get a couple of (NCAA) Division I offers,” he said. “The schools were really nice. Don’t get me wrong. The schools were really nice. One of the schools was Wagner College up in Staten Island, New York. They offered me to play for their school. 

“They gave me a really good scholarship. The practice facilities, unfortunately, were not to where I expected it to be. My parents were a little bit hesitant on ‘Should we send you to New York to go play Division I golf? I know this is your goal, but it’s like, will you improve, or will you not improve with those practice facilities?’” 

Many prospective college athletes don’t take gap years looking for better offers, but Patel, who wants to major in computer science, is willing to take that gamble. 

“Golf is a goal of mine to pursue, but it’s more, to a certain level, like I’m thinking in the long term I know a lot of players, I know a lot of players that are better than me,” he said. “In the long term I feel I may get there. I may get to a high level someday. I may try to go pursue professional golf at some point, but I’m also thinking about a more realistic skill.  

“I know I’m good enough to get recruited. Is professional golf the best future for me? Like, probably not, mainly because it’s ridiculously hard. It’s a huge commitment.”