By Nick Snow
STILLWATER, Okla. —
Troy Fort isn’t going to set any landspeed records for quickest round of golf any time soon. His slow play and easy-going style has even become a battle cry for the Stillwater High School golf team.
But make no mistake, when he tees off in the Class 6A state championship Monday at Karsten Creek, the junior hopes the rallying cry of “beware of the sloth” serves as more of a warning to opponents.
“Troy is not a slow player, but if you watch Troy, he’s just pretty easy going,” Stillwater coach Larry Hesler said. “He sticks his glove in his bag, he picks his bag up and kind of saunters off. He got the nickname Sloth. He’s picked his pace up a lot, but the nickname just kind of stuck and he just takes it with a smile. It’s a term of endearment for the rest of the guys.”
Not many people would be happy about being nicknamed after one of the slowest moving animals on earth, but Fort is just happy to be able to walk the course Monday — even if it is at a slower pace than his opponents.
Since last fall, Fort has undergone two ankle surgeries because his feet pronated so badly. He spent nearly three months in a walking boot following back-to-back surgeries.
Now with a screw in each foot to keep his feet straight, Fort appears to be playing his best golf at the right time.
“Troy has had a lot of problems with his feet, but he’s battled back through it,” Hesler said. “They did a lot work on his feet and it threw his swing off. I mean, he had to re-learn his swing. So to get back to where he is after having that, I’m very impressed with his ability to come back. He got right back into it and started shooting his best golf right at the end and that’s what you need to do.”
While Fort may be playing his best golf at the right time, he knows the competition and the hometown course will be anything but forgiving for the junior. Fort has never played the course before, but he’s already picked the minds of several local golfers in an effort to get an insider’s edge.
“I’m definitely hoping to play well,” Fort said. “If it doesn’t work out, I’ll just be happy for the experience.
“I’ve never played it before, so it will definitely be a learning experience. I’ll definitely try to talk to some guys that have played there. There’s definitely some local knowledge there and local knowledge never hurts.”
One of those people with the insider’s edge on Karsten Creek? His coach, Hesler.
“The big thing about Karsten is that you have to stay out of the rough — you have to go down the middle,” Hesler said. “Troy knows that as well as anybody. He goes down the middle as well as anybody on my team. Troy can keep it in the middle and out of trouble and that’s the secret at Karsten Creek. I think he can shoot a pretty good number at Karsten. He just has to stay down the middle.”
Most of the state’s top golfers will keep it in the fairway without much problem regardless of the weather conditions. Where others may get tripped up is under the immense pressure of the tournament.
Without a doubt, Fort will feel the same pressure — if not more because he is the hometown player. No doubt there might even be a few “beware of the Sloth” cries from time to time. But that’s where his secret weapon comes in — his speed, or lack thereof.
“He plays his own pace, but I thought he has been playing a lot faster lately,” Hesler said. “He’s just pretty methodical. When you shoot 76, it doesn’t take you very long to shoot those scores when you’re swinging a club pretty good.”
Fort may take a few more practice swings Monday and may walk a little slower. But rest assured, the only reason he’s doing it is to just enjoy the moment — a moment he thought might never come.
“I’m just so happy to make it to state,” Fort said. “It means a lot to me because of everything I’ve been through and all this town does for us. I’m hoping I can have a good round and represent Stillwater well.”