Gray Collegiate’s Castle is great, and getting better
PGA professional Tom Mason owns Par Tee Golf Center in West Columbia and watches players of all skill levels hammer balls on the practice range. He generally takes a glance and moves on, tending to the duties that make the operation run smoothly.
One golfer, however, always commands his attention. He lingers, takes in the poetry-inmotion swing, and shakes his head in admiration.
“Jensen Castle,” he says. “She’s outstanding now, and she’s going to be a great player.”
University of Kentucky coach Golda Borst agrees, signing Castle to a grantin-aid 10 days ago. She called the top-ranked player in the UK class “a strong player who will bring a great deal of toughness to our team . . . . I know she will have some special things in store” for the Wildcats.
Castle, a senior at Gray Collegiate Academy, owns credentials to support those assessments. She has won a string of state tournaments and has qualified for the big national events for juniors — the U.S. Junior Girls, the PGA Junior Girls and the Big I. In addition, she has made the field for the U.S. Women’s Amateur Fourball, currently ranks second in the South Carolina Junior rankings and is 19th in Golfweek’s Class of 2019 poll.
“I’m excited,” Jensen said in looking toward the next step in her golf career. “I want to play professional golf one day, but I realize that’s very far away and for now I want to give Kentucky my all.”
Her journey in golf began at age 2, and her competitive nature kicked in a few years later. “I wanted to get better,” she said.
To that end, she received support from family and “every one who helped me,” she said. She played basketball, soccer and dance before golf took center stage.
“I practice every day and try to improve in everything,” Jensen said. “Recently, my short game is so much better, and I know how important that is.”
Earning berths in the national tournaments convinced Castle that she could play and succeed beyond state and regional levels.
“Meeting girls at the PGA Junior Girls and the U.S. Junior Girls and playing on the big stage was really neat,” she said. “Making the cut and playing well in the PGA Junior Girls this summer meant a lot and then I did well (tie for sixth) in the Big I and had a top 10 in an AJGA tournament.”
That’s without mentioning winning her second state high school title, adding this year’s championship for Gray Collegiate to the crown she won competing for White Knoll. Before college, she takes aim at her final year in the junior ranks and the U.S. Women’s Amateur.
“The competition gets better with each step and I’m super competitive,” Jensen said. “You have to really want to play well and work at the game. Some games you can fake, but you can’t fake golf. It’s a hard game and requires hard work all the time to keep improving.”
Her formula — work hard every day and keep improving — has produce dividends. And this, the pro Tom Mason predicted, is just the start.
Chip shots. Clemson’s Bryson Nimmer added another chapter to his sizzling fall, placing third in the Sun Bowl Marathon All-american Classic in El Paso, Tex. The senior from Bluffton earned two individual titles and one runner-up finish in five previous stroke-play events. Teammate Turk Pettit finished 18 th . . . . Nimmer is one of 16 players invited to participate in a December practice session for the 2019 U.S. Walker Cup team . . . . Adam Hunt (Columbia, boys’ 13-14), Karlee Vardas (Lexington, girls’ 13-18) and Daniel Azallion (Hilton Head Island, boys’ 15-18) won titles in the SCJGA’S Players Championship in Hartsville . . . . In the fall signing period, USC’S women’s team added three players: Smith Knaffle (Murrells Inlet), Pauline Roussin-bouchard (Carqueiranne, France) and Mathilde Claisse (Poissy, France) . . . . Clemson’s men added Drayton Stewart (Charleston) and Carter Pendley (Dalton, Ga.).