Davis Womble became a target as a middle-school player on Wesleyan Christian Academy’s varsity golf team.
The target has grown a little larger each year: a win at the Donald Ross Junior in 2009, the Wake Forest commitment that followed and a state championship at the N.C. Independent Schools Athletic Association 3-A tournament.
When Womble plays well these days, it is expected. If he misses the mark, it surprises folks.
It does not, however, bother Womble. The senior is aiming squarely at the big picture rather than worrying about the minor details of tournament finishes and junior rankings.
“You’ve just got to realize with golf more than any other sport, you’re going to have your good days and you’re going to have your bad days,” Womble said. “Any golfer on the PGA Tour, on a bad day, they’re going to shoot over par. It just happens. It’s nothing to be afraid of. I address what went wrong and get it fixed for the next time.”
That kind of maturity out of an 18-year-old impresses Wake Forest coach Jerry Haas almost as much as the golfing skill Womble displays.
“An old guy like me, I’ve been up, I’ve been down. You realize the game is very hard,” Haas said. “One day you think you’ll never play bad again. Two weeks later you wonder if you’ll ever play good again.
“If you’re that good a player, it’s in there. It will be back,” Haas added. “He’s showing good signs. He is definitely somebody who is going to walk on campus and make a good impact on our golf team right away.”
Haas said he watched Womble at a number of tournaments last summer and noted that his recruit wasn’t exactly hitting the ball straight. After Womble won the Carolinas Junior and Charles Tilghman Junior en route to being named Carolinas Golf Association’s Junior Player of the Year in 2010, success was harder to find last year.
Part of the struggle could be traced to Womble’s continued growth. A 6-foot-6, it is a safe bet that he’ll be asked on campus next year what position he plays for the Demon Deacon basketball team. There is a hoops player in the family — Womble’s great-grandfather Sam lettered for N.C. State in the 1930s – but Davis Womble is all golf despite the height.
“I’ve leveled out, haven’t grown since early in my junior year,” said Womble, who at one point was getting new clubs and longer shafts at a remarkable rate to keep up with his growth spurts. “It has gotten a little easier on my golf swing.”
Another reason Womble’s top tournament finishes dropped off came as his approach changed. Committing and then signing in November of your junior year to a school you’ve dreamed of attending since the age of 11 has a way of changing some priorities.
“Seventh- and eighth-grade came very natural to me. I was able to compete at the highest level in that age division,” Womble said. “Ninth-grade year was very tough. That’s when most of my growing occurred. In 10th grade, I realized this is the year I need to focus on college. I took the focus off improving my swing and focused on playing well. Sophomore year opens you up to everyone: ‘Hey, I’m here, I’m talented.’ Once I opened myself up to a lot of colleges and decided I wanted to go to Wake, I focused on improving my game for college.”
And that’s where Womble finds himself now. The National Letter of Intent has been signed and delivered for months. His college coach is eager to get him on campus. Now Womble can work on getting that swing just right.
High school matches, which start in March, offer the perfect testing ground for Womble. His High Point team will practice virtually every day and play several matches a week. The competition won’t be fierce until the state tournament, allowing Womble “to put my swing into play without having a ton of repercussions.”
His tournament schedule is starting to fill up and then will increase dramatically in the summer months, which will take him right into move-in day at Wake Forest. At the recent Carolinas-Georgia Junior Championship, Womble placed second in a strong field. At the Junior Heritage, he struggled mightily while battling the flu. Womble hopes to win two of the major events he enters this summer, but recognizes that trophies and plaques aren’t everything.
“My ultimate goal is being prepared when I go to college,” Womble said. “I feel like my golf game is at a whole other level than it was, even when I was playing my best junior golf.”
Haas mentioned that although Womble’s swing “is not the prettiest thing,” it works just fine.
“He is all about shooting a number,” Haas said. “There’s a little box on that scorecard and you write a number. You’re not drawing a picture of how pretty it looked.”
For his part, Womble is able to work on the nuances of his swing just about any time of the day or night. His coach is his dad.
Brad Womble played for Guilford College, and Davis provided a vote of confidence for his father that some dads would kill to hear their kids say: “My dad actually knows what he’s talking about.”
With the father-son/coach-player relationship, Davis Womble doesn’t have to worry about having access to his teacher. And hey, those consulting fees are pretty reasonable, too.
“It’s really a blessing,” Davis said. “You have the tensions that come along with the father-son relationship on the golf course, but you can get to him whenever you need to. My dad knows my swing so well and he knows how to get the job done.
“If you know what you’re working toward, all you have to do is put the practice time into it and the effects will show,” Womble said.