Blue Springs South golfer Grant Williamson had a lot to look forward to in 2017.

He was an up-and-coming player for the Jaguars, and was aiming to make the varsity team after a strong junior varsity campaign during his freshman year.

That was not to be.

Williamson tore the labrum in his right shoulder while lifting weights and practicing for the football team. He played through the injury, but remained with the junior varsity squad with his injured shoulder hindering his play.

“I was shooting really good scores before the season, and I was hopeful,” Williamson said. “All my buddies ended up making varsity team, but the shoulder injury held me back. My shoulder would pop when I would swing. It was just nasty.”

Going into his junior season, Williamson decided to step away from football and solely concentrate on golf.

It ended up being a great decision for the South junior. Now fully recovered from the injury, Williamson made a huge impact on his first year with the varsity team. He finished five stokes back of 15th place (the cutoff for all-state honors) at the Missouri State High School Boys Golf Championships last May, finishing in a tie for 34th place with a two-round score of 156 after shooting 78 on each day.

The junior was the lone South golfer to qualify for state when he fired a 78 at the Class 4 Sectional 4 state tournament, tying for eighth place with four others.

Because of his breakout season, Williamson is the 2018 Examiner Boys Golfer of the Year.

“I knew he was anxious coming into this year; he was healthy,” South coach Casey Enright said. “He was our top JV player last season. He improved steadily throughout the year and finished strong. He had big expectations for himself.”

Williamson flew under the radar for most of the spring season before emerging late in the season.

And it led to a state appearance, which Williamson was ecstatic about. But it was a bittersweet moment for him because the Jaguars finished three strokes short of making it to state as a team during sectionals.

“I really wish they could have made it to state with me,” Williamson said of his teammates. “When I went in to see the scores to see who was going to make state, I saw my score and I knew I made it. But I was more focused on my teammates. I was happy that I was going, but my teammates were so close to making it, too. I couldn’t help but looking back to see where I could have dropped a stroke here or there to help my teammates go to state.”

But it was still a good day individually.

“I had a pretty solid round going, but I had a couple of bad holes in there,” Williamson said. “I just stayed real steady and really didn’t do anything crazy. I just kept it in play and got the ball in the hole.”

At state, Williamson said he had a “little bit of nerves,” but ended up treating it as “any other round of golf.” It was at that point Enright knew that Williamson had vastly improved in the most important aspect of the game.

“The biggest reason for his strong finish was the mental part of his game,” Enright said. “If he had a bad hole or a bad stretch, he was able to forget about it and move on to the next hole. Whereas, maybe early in the season he’d let that get to him a little more.”

It shouldn’t be a surprise that Williamson found success in his first year on varsity. He’s been playing golf since he was 4 years old, when he owned plastic golf clubs. Just a few years later, he would go out with his father to the driving range. He even sometimes played a round of golf with his father and his friends.

“That’s how I got my love for the game,” he said.

And he loves it so much that he plays it year round, as Williamson has found a few tournaments to play in during the summer.

“Golf is a sport you have to play year round,” he said. “If you take the whole summer off, you are not going to be doing real well. I try to play in as many tournaments as I can.”

And those tournaments are helping him gear up for his senior season, one which Williamson and Enright are aiming high.

“Making all-state would be great, but I want to make it back to state first,” Williamson said. “My main goal is to contribute to our team (making state).”

Added Enright: “Our junior class will be seniors next year and we have our core back. They were excited for Grant to make it, but I think they want to make it as a team next spring.”