By Matt Langone
PEPPERELL — Jimmy Walmsley is happy to say he’s never snapped a golf club in disgust after slicing a ball 30 yards off the fairway.
Truth be told, he’s come close. But when displeasure with a shot reared its ugly head in the past, the North Middlesex High School junior chose to go the wiser, less expensive route. He’d simply punish the club by throwing it.
“The difference for me always comes down to between the ears,” said Walmsley. “I used to have a bit of an anger problem on the course, and have frustration fits. I haven’t completely conquered it yet, but I’m close. I’ve just tried to play around it and use it as motivation. I’m an energetic guy, I’ll fist pump on a great shot, things like that.”
The 16-year-old Pepperell resident’s description of himself sounds a lot like his idol — Tiger Woods. Much like the 14-time PGA Major winner, Walmsley has learned to parlay emotion into big results.
Of his eight rounds this season for 6-2 North Middlesex, the captain and three-year varsity star has only shot over par three times. His nine-hole scoring average is 35.4, highlighted by an incredible 5-under 30 against Groton-Dunstable at Groton Country Club. His drives are consistently straight and carrying 300-310 yards.
“Jimmy kicked our butts. You don’t see a 30 very often,” said Groton-Dunstable head coach Dave Bean. “There’s a good chance he will be the player to beat.”
Judging by his efforts over the summer, stellar play was to be expected from Walmsley.
On Aug. 20 he captured medalist honors in a 76-player American Junior Golf Association (AJGA) tournament with a 1-under 69 at his home course, Townsend Ridge Country Club. He bested a field that featured players from all over the United States and three countries, ranging in age from 12-18. With the prestigious win, he earned invitations to play in his choice of three national tournaments next year.
He also won the Townsend Ridge Club Championship, defeating Scott Kokernak for the title, 6-and-5. As a sophomore Walmsley was a Sun All-Star and the overall medalist in 12 of the team’s 18 matches. He had a 38.5 stroke average.
“This was a big summer for my confidence,” said Walmsley, who hit an estimated 200 balls per day during the summer. “I barely signed up in time for the AJGA tourney, and to win it… I was pretty speechless, in all honesty. There were players from all over the country there, and they were there to win. I was pretty nervous going in, but I maintained my focus.”
Those aforementioned bouts with frustration are looking more and more like a thing of the past.
“I have never seen a kid at this age shoot the numbers that Jimmy shoots,” said North Middlesex coach and Townsend Ridge Head Golf Pro Derick Fors. “I have never dealt with someone like him. He understands the golf swing so well. Anything I tell him, he adjusts to instantly, he completely buys in. He has more raw talent than anyone I’ve been around, and I’ve been around a ton of players.”
Fors is in his sixth season as coach at NM, and he also played on the school’s most successful team ever, the 17-0-1 1997 squad (third in state). He played his college golf at WPI. So, yes, he has been around a lot of amateur golfers.
Walmsley has been a member at Townsend Ridge for six years and has worked with Fors throughout that span. The coach has been instrumental in helping Walmsley improve his mental approach.
“I try to convey to him that you have to let the bad shots go and let the good shots go. You can’t always expect to play perfect,” said Fors. “He’s learning to pick and choose his spots to be aggressive. He has the ability to birdie every hole. He is very polite and engaging, but he has a tendency to be too intense. Of course, some of the best players on Tour are very demonstrative. He is just so driven and has so much potential.”
Golf is in Walmsley’s genes. His mother Cathy is a scratch golfer, despite not picking up the sport until she was 25. He also has two uncles who play scratch.
Walmsley played in his first tournament when he was seven, drove the ball 200 yards when he was 10, and took lessons when he was 11. That’s when he decided to put baseball and basketball on the back burner.
“I could always hit the ball long, but I used to struggle with my accuracy. Now it’s probably my biggest strength,” said Walmsley, who is 6 feet tall after growing three inches since last fall. “The thing I work on most now is course management and smart decisions.”
After finishing tied for 14th in last year’s state individual tournament, Walmsley couldn’t be more straightforward about his expectations this fall.
“I expect to have a good chance to win that thing,” he said.
And if he doesn’t, there won’t be any club throwing.
Follow Matt Langone at Twitter.com/MattLangone