Troy Taylor II aims for U.S. Am title as former Ohio State guard tags along | Rob Oller
Troy Taylor hasn’t outplayed his son on the golf course since the kid began cleaning his clock more than a decade ago.
“He began beating up on me in golf at 9 years old,” Taylor said. “It was over at that stage.”
Troy Taylor II chuckled. The 22-year-old graduate senior at Michigan State, who tees off Monday in his first U.S. Amateur, won't say his old man has no shot − this isn't exactly Tiger Woods vs. Charles Barkley − but, well, Dad has no shot.
“When I was 14, he probably came close a couple times,” Troy II said. “Or at least to where over the last four holes I had to focus.”
Dad manages to make things interesting when handicap gets added into the equation, but “head to head, he hasn’t been close,” Troy II said.
It’s a different story on the basketball court, where Papa Taylor still owns the same sweet stroke that saw him as a 6-foot Ohio State guard finish the 1984-85 season with an impressive .518 shooting percentage. He ranks 20th in school history with 1,497 career points and holds the single-game steals record with eight.
“We don’t play one-on-one, but shooting? I can’t hang with him,” Troy II said.
I get a charge out of father-son sports relationships like the Taylors'. What resonates is not only the pride a dad has for his child, but the competitiveness between the two. Fathers might act as if losing to our sons is killing us, but deep down we want our children to accomplish more than we did. At the end of the day, what father doesn’t want his progeny to one-up him?
Taylor II is on his way to doing just that. His dad was an outstanding college basketball player, but Taylor II eyes an even bigger prize. He wants to play golf professionally and is preparing to meet that goal. Eat right. Sleep right. Practice right. But mostly think right.
Golf is played as much between the ears as between the ropes, and it is the mental part of the game Troy II is working to master.
“The self-belief part is important in any sport,” he said. “Once you get to a certain level, everyone is talented. … It’s self-belief that gets you a long way.”
Usually self-belief needs a kick-start, which is where wise parenting comes in. Believing in yourself becomes easier when you know others believe in you. Troy Sr. has never doubted II.
“His drive to accomplish a goal and his hand-eye coordination are very good,” said Taylor, who watched his son experiment with different sports before settling on golf.
“He played AAU basketball coming up. And he played soccer and flag football,” said Taylor, who coached girls basketball at Mifflin for 14 seasons, leading the Punchers to a Division II state runner-up finish in 2002 before retiring in 2010. “I introduced him to all sports, and knew at a certain age he would figure out what he liked and didn’t like.”
Bravo. Letting kids decide where to land is a smart and healthy approach to parenting young athletes, but Troy and Sheila Taylor also made sure to be with their son every step of the way. They encouraged, exhorted, explained and equipped.
“I had a plan," Troy Sr. explained. "When playing soccer, it was working on his coordination and footwork. Football, it was more the mental part of it, understanding where to go and how to get to a certain point. Then basketball, of course. You do a lot of shooting. I taught him a lot of techniques to be ahead of the game when playing against his own age group.
“Then, his freshman year (at Westerville South) he said, ‘Dad, I want to tell you something. I’m a golfer.’ Good. I wanted him to be able to choose the activity he wanted to do. And it was the same process for picking a college.”
Troy II grew up loving the Buckeyes, but a visit to Michigan State sealed his decision. Sometimes, you just know.
“It came down to Ohio State and Michigan State and he asked me, ‘What do you think?’ " Troy Sr. said. "I told him I don’t think anything. It’s your decision.' ”
Troy Sr. has never missed any of Troy II’s tournaments, and that support is appreciated beyond the obvious, because it’s not easy being the only Black golfer on the course.
“Everywhere we go we may be the only minority there,” Troy Sr. said. “It’s still tough, but he was brought up right, to treat people right.”
“I’m the only African-American about 96% of the time,” Troy II added, estimating that only about five Blacks compete in all of Power Five. He wants to grow that number.
“I’m just trying to open a door behind me for younger African-Americans, the way Wyatt (Worthington) and Tiger and all the other guys made a way for me,” he said. “My whole goal is to play on the PGA Tour, where a little African-American minority kid can see someone who looks like him.”
But first, a trip to Paramus, New Jersey, for the U.S. Amateur, where Troy II aims to win.
“That’s just the mindset I have,” he said. “I’ve been playing with all these guys in junior events since I was about 15. I know I can play with them, but one step at a time.”
Troy Sr. will be there every step of the way. If you can’t beat him, join him.