Blake Parkman always wanted to end up in Athens.
His father and mother attended the University of Georgia – both playing sports for the Bulldogs.
Parkman’s father, Kanon Parkman, played football and his mother, Megan Parkman, lettered in soccer.
Naturally, Blake was plenty interested in Georgia. The thing is, Georgia didn’t seem too interested in him.
So, Parkman wrapped up his sophomore season with South Forsyth’s golf team, then teed off his summer season, playing in American Junior Golf Association events around the country.
Parkman enjoyed a successful season on the summer circuit and began to field Division I interest – he thought he might enroll at Notre Dame or Illinois – but knew there was one place he truly wanted to be.
“At the end of the process I kind of texted (Georgia head coach Chris) Haack – because that was really where I wanted to be – and they set up a visit and they came down and watched me, and that’s kind of how it ended up,” Parkman said. “It was cool, because my dad played football there, so there are good ties and that’s just where I wanted to end up.
“That’s kind of where I wanted to be all my life.”
Parkman enters his junior season verbally committed to his dream school, while also taking over as the War Eagles’ top golfer following the graduation of Forsyth County News Player of the Year Drew Shell.
“He drives it really straight and I’ve kind of learned a few things from him off the tee,” Parkman said of Shell. “I hit it pretty far, but on occasion it can go a little awry. He’s really helped push me to get a little better. We used to play together a lot, so every time I played with him, he’d be pushing me to get a lot better.”
Parkman, who stands 6-foot-5, packs plenty of power behind his drives, averaging about 310 yards off the tee.
This year, however, the focus is on his short game.
“I feel like I can drive it straight enough and long enough off the tee to where I can score,” Parkman said. “But my wedges from inside 100 yards and kind of around the greens and putting is my main focus. If I can really nail those down, I think we’ll be good this season.”
South Forsyth head coach Chris Reonas knows the kind of athlete he has in Parkman.
In fact, Reonas was Parkman’s JV basketball coach for two seasons before taking over the golf team for Jonathan Schreier at the beginning of the year.
“As a basketball player, he’s always been really intense. Even on the golf course, he’s still pretty competitive,” Reonas said. “So, he gets after it. He’s always the guy on the basketball court that I’m like, ‘Hey, go take care of this.’ Or if somebody is scoring a lot on you or something, he can go in and rebound and do the little things. But you always know when you put him in, he’s going to go all out for you.”
Funny enough, Parkman never played football growing up, despite his father’s place in UGA folklore.
Kanon, who played for Georgia from 1991-95, kicked a pair of 34-yard game-winning field goals against Georgia Tech, enjoying a 5-0 run against the Bulldogs’ in-state rival.
But Blake began golfing around 3 or 4 and started playing competitively a few years after that. Since then, it’s been either golf or basketball.
Asked whether Parkman is a better golfer or basketball player, Reonas replied, “I’d probably lean toward golf,” with a laugh.
Parkman is only getting better, too.
His best round came in August when he shot a 62 at the Country Club of Columbus, one stroke off the course record.
His most challenging round also came during the summer, when he played Pinehurst in North Carolina.
“It’s a very tough golf course and I really didn’t know what I was getting into. It’s by far one of my favorite challenges I’ve ever played,” Parkman said. “Obviously, it’s a major championship golf course, so it’s going to test every part of your game. It really kind of gave me an eye-opener on what I needed to work on. That was in the middle of the summer, and after that I really performed my best, so I think that’s definitely one of the best courses I’ve played.”
Parkman’s insight speaks to his analytical nature, which is something Reonas noticed even when he was Parkman’s basketball coach.
“You could see how, while basketball is very different, the way he played basketball and the way practiced, especially, he was really, really focused on things and really detail-oriented, so you could see how he’s definitely a golfer,” Reonas said. “He really focused on the little things at the time. As a coach, focusing on the little things meant a lot, too, because you’re asking them to focus on the little things. When you have a player that’s like that, it’s nice.”
The War Eagles return four of their top five golfers from a year ago, with Shell being the lone exception.
Senior Parker Duncan, as well as juniors Michael Dotson and Zach Fischer will also contribute for a South Forsyth squad that expects to be competitive in area play.
“You want to set those goals high so you have something to work for,” Reonas said. “Our focus is on area. We want to finish in the top five in area so we can get to state, then we want to perform as well. We’d love to win state, so obviously we want to set the expectations high, and realistic and the same time.”