Thadd II Will Attend UCF After Park

If you’ve ever talked to Thadd Obecny, you know he is, among many other things, one very proud dad.

Earlier this week, his longtime golfing prodigy son, Thadd II, gave a verbal commitment to the University of Central Florida to continue his academic and athletic careers, you know, in a year and a half after he finishes up at Wheeling Park High School.

I first met both Thadds when Thadd II was 5 years old and his parents (mother Mary Kay) brought him into the newspaper office to get his photo taken because we planned to highlight some of the young man’s already-hard-to-believe accomplishments. That was just after he’d played in a U.S. Kids World Championship and acquitted himself quite well.

That was not where this journey started, though.

”Back when Thadd was 3,” his dad said, ”all he wanted to do was hit balls in our side yard which was about 100 yards. We had a sitter who was probably in her 70s that had to help retrieve those balls and to re-tee all day long.

”When I would get home from work, Thadd would have his bag on his back to then go to the course or driving range.”

And so it began, continuing through countless rounds, hundreds of tournaments, at least a dozen states, and, well, if you added up all the colleges interested in the young man, it wouldn’t look good on a score card.

”Travel relating to interested colleges was a challenge of its own,” Thadd said. ”From Ohio State, Kent State, Vanderbilt, South Florida, Duke, UCF, including the massive emails and offers from schools never visited such as Auburn, Arizona State, Southern Miss, Texas A&M, Stanford etc. …

”It’s great to be great, but it’s hard to be great in more ways than one.”

You bet it is.

On the golf course, the younger Obecny has never had a problem channeling his unusual skills and strong mental makeup for the game. Like most of the great ones, Thadd II generally wins from the neck up.

To be sure, though, this has been a learning experience for all involved.

Like when Thadd II was 6 and in the driver’s seat at U.S. Kids World Championship in Williamsburg, Va., where he held a two-stroke lead going into the last hole.

”Strategically I had him try to drive the green surrounded by water knowing he could make it with a perfect shot but just needing a bogie to win,” his dad said. ”He missed the green and got to drop for an easy chip and two putt. Well being 6 years old, he dropped before I could say anything (as his caddie) – right into a divot.

”So he ended up doubling and losing in sudden death. Lesson learned: watch where you’re going to drop your ball.”

He didn’t drop the ball for long.

By the time he was 8, he began playing on the Top Flite Junior Tour, which required players to be 10. He got in, thanks to the help of local junior golf director John Wilson, and had some top-3 finishes that year. He went on to rule that tour for years.

By the time Thadd II was 10, he was routinely beating his dad in rounds. At 13, he was earning one exemption after another on the AJGA, or national, scene.

Thadd II was a household name by the time he got to high school.

Who could forget the stunning comeback he had on Day 2 of the state tournament his freshman year? Playing in dreadful conditions, he was 6 shots back after the first day. Many had written off his chances of becoming medalist.

”I texted him and told him it was his first year in high school and told him he’ll have plenty of years left to win the state, just to play the next day and have fun,” his dad said. ”Well he texted back that it ‘wasn’t over yet’ and ‘he was going to win.’ I told him great attitude and good luck, but I’ll bet you $100 it can’t be done. Well so the story goes he shot par 72 to win and walked off the final green over to me at the cart path and asked me if I had the $100 with me?”

He was the medalist again the next year and finished second to his teammate, Cole Hand, last October. He’s been a part of two state championships during his first three years of high school.

Through it all, Thadd and Mary Kay have seemingly done whatever it takes to see help their son along this ride.

”Mary Kay and I would take turns over the years taking Thadd to tournaments all over the country,” Thadd said. ”He’s played against players from around the world and has developed friendships against players he’s played against since he was 7 years old. We prepaid his college tuition. A lot of people probably think that sounds like fun. It was a hard-earned accomplishment for the Obecny family as a whole. But the end has justified the means and we are so proud of what Thadd has accomplished and happy for his choosing UCF. It’s a fantastic academic institution with a strong golf program.

”Thadd’s looking forward to getting a good education, playing great college golf for an NCAA title and moving on to the PGA Tour. I won’t argue with him because I would probably lose again, gladly.”

Jim Elliott can be reached via e-mail at: