By Gene Phelps
TUPELO – Ole Miss fan Hayden Buckley will attend the Rebels’ SEC football game next weekend against Missouri as a Tigers golf signee.
His loyalties will definitely be split.
“I guess I’ll wear black and gold,” Buckley said, then laughed. “It’s a big game for both teams.”
Buckley and Tupelo High golf teammate Austin Rose signed national letters of intent Wednesday to play for Missouri and Mississippi State. It marked the beginning of the early NCAA signing period, which runs through Nov. 20.
Rose, the defending Class 6A state medalist, selected the Bulldogs for two reasons.
“I grew up a State fan,” he said. “Playing time was also a big thing. They’re losing four guys.”
Rose picked MSU over LSU while Buckley picked Mizzou over Rice.
“Both of these guys are good friends and grew up playing golf together at the Tupelo Country Club,” THS golf coach Mark Enis said. “They have both been instrumental in the success of our program.
“Both work very hard and they know what it takes to get to that level. They represent our program well.”
Tupelo won its sixth consecutive 5A and 6A state championship last spring. Buckley, who placed third individually in last spring’s state tournament and has played on three of the title teams, while Rose has played on four.
“There’s not a lot of pressure, but you don’t want to be on the team that doesn’t win (state),” Rose said.
“I love having a target on our back,” Buckley said. “It only makes me play better.”
Both golfers continue to work on their games as they prepare for their final high school seasons.
“I’m working on 50 yards and in; it’s critical to shooting low,” Rose said. “In the state tournament last year my wedge shots were spot on.”
Added Buckley, “I do weightlifting in the winter to get stronger. I also do a lot of short game work.”