Making her first of three TSSAA State Championships less than a year after taking up the sport, Lydia Triplett quickly realized golf could be her ticket to a college education.
“Dad (Coach Bill Triplett) asked me to go play with him one day, and I enjoyed it,” the Polk County senior said Thursday just before signing an NCAA Division I letter of intent to play at Tennessee Tech starting next fall. “A couple of months later Coach (Frankie) Lowery won six months of golf lessons in a contest. He let me have them.”
After finishing her free lessons at the Zeb Patten Golf Academy in Chattanooga, Triplett decided to continue with the instructions and became a dominating force not only for the Lady Wildcats but on the summer circuit as well.
“I like golf. It’s a different challenge each day,” related the two-sport standout who is also an All-District performer on the softball diamond. “Each course is different. You are really competing against yourself, as well as your opponent.”
Earning back-to-back TSSAA All-State honors the last two years, plus her strong play not only in summer junior tournaments, but against adult competition as well, drew the attention of several college coaches.
“I was really leaning toward Middle Tennessee State, but then one of Tennessee Tech’s players saw me in the Cookeville Invitational and told her coach,” Triplett related. “They came to watch me play several times. When I went up there for a visit, the team seemed very close-knit and I wanted to be a part of it.”
Triplett’s decision was aided by the fact the Lady Eagles also signed Signal Mountain’s Haley Davidson, who is one of her close friends and will be her roommate.
“Haley and I met two summers ago while we were playing in the Women’s State Junior Amateur. We hit it off and so did our parents, so we started hanging out and getting into tournaments together,” Triplett explained. “Living with her will make being away from home easier.”
Davidson and Triplett both had Top 10 finishes at this year’s TSSAA state tournament. Davidson led Signal Mountain to the state title with a second place individual finish, while Triplett tied for 10th after a sixth place finish in the same tournament the year before.
“Coach (Polk) Brown is trying to rebuild the Tech program. Adding Lydia and Haley will go a long way toward helping him return them to the top of their (Ohio Valley) conference,” declared coach Triplett, who played baseball at Middle Tennessee. “I admit I was pushing her toward Middle (Tennessee), because it’s my alma mater, but after I saw the situation at Tech, I think it’s a better fit for her. She’ll have a chance to compete for a playing spot right away.”
“That will be the biggest difference between high school and college,” Lydia remarked. “In high school you knew you were going to play every match. There (at TTU) I’ll have to compete with my teammates to see who gets to play in the tournaments.”
Competing against tough opponents shouldn’t be a problem for Triplett as she has already been doing that on the highest level, earning a flight championship at the Tennessee Women’s State Amateur in her first-ever match-play tournament this past summer.
“Lydia has worked very hard and is always trying to improve her game. She deserves this opportunity,” declared Polk County golf coach Jason Adams. “She holds all our school (golf) records. She’s the only girl to win the district and region twice, plus played in the state three times. She helped us win the region her freshman year and the district this year.”
Carrying a 4.2 USGA handicap, Triplett posted a 76 average this past high school season and was the low medalist in every match with the exception of one. She becomes the first Lady Wildcat golfer to sign a college scholarship since Erin Cates did so at Lee University five years ago.
“I’ve really enjoyed playing here (at PCHS). Coach Adams has always been there for me,” Triplett said.
While Triplett is trying to decide between a college major in exercise science or nursing, like her mom Linda, her skills on the links may give her another option after her collegiate days are done.