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Friday, Apr. 29, 2016

Look out college golf -- here comes another Harmon

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Izard County's Preston Harmon signed a letter of intent March 29 to play college golf at Central Baptist College in Conway next fall. Front row, from left are: Preston Harmon and Stacey Harmon; back row: David Harmon and Lyle Middleton. [Order this photo]
With roughly 162 students filling its hallways in grades 9-12, Izard County High is by no means one of the biggest schools in the state.

But the small Class 1A school has developed a big Class 7A reputation as a major force on the high school golf scene in the state the past few years.

Matter of fact, Izard County High School is quickly becoming a major railway, feeding hungry college programs with quality golfers.

And the latest to ride that train from Brockwell to the collegiate level is the reigning boys' Class 1A medalist, Preston Harmon.

Harmon signed a letter of intent March 29 to play college golf at Central Baptist College (CBC) in Conway next fall.

Preston joins his big sister Rachel, who is a sophomore at Henderson State, along with Kiley Mettler, a sophomore at Seminole State College in Florida, as golfers from Izard County High School who have made the leap from the high school level to college the past couple of years.

After considering John Brown University in Siloam Springs, along with Meridian Community College in Meridian, Miss., Preston settled on CBC, where he will join Head Coach Lyle Middleton's Mustangs.

"They have a good golf program and I really liked the campus and the facilities they have down there," the three-time All-State selection said. "And Coach Middleton is a good coach who knows a lot about the game and I figure he can help me take my game to the next level."

Also attending school at CBC is former Izard County standout Justin Burns, who last November, won the National Christian College Athletic Association's (NCCAA) individual championship by two strokes.

This past fall, the Cougars won their second straight Class 1A state championship, paced by Preston's even-par 73 in the tournament, earning medalist honors for the left-handed senior.

In 2010 when Izard County won its first state title, Preston, then a junior, finished right behind Ridgefield Christian's Cameron McKinney for top individual honors. McKinney will join Preston at Central Baptist College next year, making the Mustangs' prospects at success look pretty good.

"With the players that are there (CBC), I think we can compete for a national championship -- if not, at least a conference championship," Preston said.

After finishing as district medalist runner-up to McKinney as a junior, Preston played his way to medalist honors in the district tourney as a senior.

He also won the Southerner Invitational during his sophomore and junior campaigns and finished as runner-up this past fall. Preston was also medalist at the Cougar Classic -- a tournament Izard County hosts -- the past two years.

On top of that, he was also among the 21 best golfers from all classifications that were invited to participate in the Overall Tournament the past two years. Preston finished in 10th place with an 81 at last October's event.

All that adds up to an impressive resume, but for Izard County Head Coach David Harmon, that's just the tip of the iceberg, as he will now have two children playing golf at the collegiate level come next fall.

"I feel very, very blessed. It's not really anything that has to do with me, but for some reason, they (Preston and Rachel) both had the God-given ability to excel at the game of golf," Coach Harmon said. "And that provided them with an opportunity to further their education and I'm tickled to death over that."

Rachel made quite a splash for Henderson State in her first year there, earning Gulf South Conference Freshman of the Year honors -- the first-ever for the school.

Coach Harmon believes that Preston is capable of making similar strides at the next level.

"I think he'll do real well. As a matter of fact, I think he'll be a better collegiate golfer than he was at the high school level, because here he had to go from golf to basketball to baseball, or back-and-forth all the way through," he said. "And now, he'll be able to just sit there and focus on one sport and I think that will be a big plus for him."

Preston's stroke average as a senior was 73.5, and according to his dad and coach, a big part of his son's success on the course has to do with the way he approaches things -- good and bad -- on the links.

"I think the biggest thing is his demeanor -- he can hit a bad shot and you can't ever tell it. A bad shot, a bad hole -- he forgets it immediately and I think that's one of the biggest assets a program can have," Coach Harmon said. "He's got excellent leadership qualities and I think that will be a big plus for him, too. And the strongest part of his game other than his demeanor is his short game. He's got an excellent short game."

That all adds up to a lot of good things for the Cougars the past four years.

"I'm a little biased I'm sure, but he's done a lot of good things for this program. His presence out there the last four years has just been invaluable for us," Coach Harmon said. "Both as a leader and in his ability to get out there and play the game."

The Cougars shot a team-score of 254 in this year's state tourney, seven strokes better than second-place Concord.

Izard County's title-winning score this year was 17 strokes better than the year before, when they also captured a state title at The Golf Course on Turkey Mountain in Horseshoe Bend.

And according to Preston, those two state titles are memories that he will not soon forget.

"Just winning the two state championships. And then winning the state championship as an individual this year," he said. "And making it to the Overall Championship the past two years was a highlight, too. But mainly, just being with the guys on my team -- they really helped me this year. I couldn't have done it without them. They really committed themselves to practicing every day. The two state championships as a team is probably the thing I'm the most proud of."

Also a multiple All-Conference pick in basketball and baseball, Preston plans to focus strictly on golf at CBC.

At least for now.

"Right now, it's just golf, but I'll know for sure when I get down there," he said.

And who knows what the golfers at Izard County high School will accomplish over the next few years, but it's a safe bet that area college coaches will keep their eyes peeled on Brockwell as another crop of up-and-comers hit the local greens.

"I think a lot of it has to do with our local courses and everything. Cooper's Hawk, and of course Turkey Mountain and the courses at Cherokee, are all very kid-friendly," Coach Harmon said. "And you don't find that at all the courses in Arkansas. There's some courses that don't recognize the importance of kids being out there. But the three courses in this area, they really like to have kids out there. And that makes the kids want to get out there and work on their game that much more. That's the biggest thing we've got going on around here."

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