Sullivan proving to be one of nation’s best

McNary junior Colby Sullivan was the only golfer from Oregon to compete in the High School Golf National Invitational at Pinehurst Resort, N.C. in June (Submitted).

He may be new to the area, but it didn’t take long for Colby Sullivan to establish himself as one of the best young golfers in the Northwest.

Sullivan, who is going to be a junior at McNary in the fall, was the only golfer from Oregon that competed in the High School Golf National Invitational at Pinehurst Resort, N.C, which took place June 28-30. In the three-day, 54-hole tournament, Sullivan placed 34th out of more than 300 participants, shooting a 78 on day one, a 79 on day two and a 71 on the final day.

“I started to putt a lot better later in the tournament. I felt a lot more relaxed and took more advantage of my birdie chances,” Sullivan said. “Playing in such a big tournament was a little nerve racking, but once I got out there I just played my game. It was a great experience and I think it will prepare me for other tournaments down the road.”

Sullivan grew up in Virginia and experienced immediate success early on in his high school career. As a freshman at Lancaster High School, Sullivan was named the 1A player of the year in 2020 — high school golf is a fall sport in Virginia.

But in February of 2020, Sullivan made the move to Keizer when his dad, Chip, took over as the manager of McNary Golf Club.

Even though he has yet to step foot into McNary High School, (he elected to do online only during the COVID-19 pandemic), Sullivan has already felt embraced by the Keizer community.

“The McNary community is very welcoming and accepting and everyone has been really nice to me. I love Oregon so far,” Sullivan said. “I miss my friends from Virginia, but I have already made a lot of good friends here.”

Sullivan credits his early high school success to his dad, who at one point competed on the PGA Tour and has played in nine major tournaments.

“My dad really got me into golf at a young age. I was swinging clubs by the time I was three years old,” Sullivan said. “The experience that he has, plus playing with him all the time, has led to my success … Golf is a big deal in my family.”

Along with being a tremendous golfer, Sullivan prides himself on being a leader. Despite hardly knowing anyone on the team or at the school, Sullivan, along with McNary teammates Jackson Garro and Elijah Clendening, gathered golfers together for offseason work and team bonding before McNary’s spring season.

“Jackson and Elijah really helped me branch out and bring people together. I just wanted to make it fun for everyone,” Sullivan said.

The Celtics saw the fruits of Sullivan’s leadership over the course of the season as he helped McNary win the Salem-Keizer district title and finish second in the end of season tournament featuring teams from Salem and the Mid-Willamette Conference.

“His leadership and experience helped all of our players shoot record lows in our final tournament. Also, many players gained confidence in their game throughout the year because of his encouragement,” McNary assistant coach Grant Kessel said. “As a coach, he is the kid you want to build your team around. Very coachable and very personable. He has all the talent you can want, but as any coach will attest to, you will trade talent for character anyway. Seeing the way he is around the course with members shows that he was raised the right way. You can count on him to represent McNary High School and Keizer well.”

In McNary’s first tournament of the season, Sullivan shot a one-over 73 at McNary Golf Club, tying with Oregon State signee Brandon Eyre of West Salem.

“It really fires you up because not every day you get to go play with a D-1 commit,” Sullivan said

Sullivan followed up that performance by winning McNary’s next tournament at Cross Creek Golf Course in Polk County, going four-under on the back nine and finishing with a three-under 69. He finished the season by winning the all-Valley tournament by three strokes, shooting a one-over 72 at Trysting Tree Golf Club in Corvallis.

According to Kessel, Sullivan’s composure and competitive edge is what sets him apart from the competition.

“He feeds on the competition and loves the pressure being on him. I have seen the kid bogey two holes in a row and then rattle off four birdies in five holes to respond,” Kessel said.

It could be easy for someone like Sullivan to be complacent with where he is at in his golf game, but the 16-year old is still hungry and is constantly looking at ways he can improve — specifically with his short game.

“Anytime I practice, the majority of what I work on is putting. But I am growing in confidence in that area and I feel like that will help me produce lower scores,” Sullivan said.

After getting back from North Carolina, Sullivan has continued to have success in golf tournaments this summer — he took second place at the Oregon Golf Association’s 2021 Peter Jacobson Challenge for players ages 14-18 earlier this month, finishing two-over. He shot a 76 on day one, then recorded the lowest score of the tournament on day two (70).

Most recently, Sullivan won the Peter Demarco McNary Memorial of McNary Golf Club last week, shooting a four-under 67.

Even though he still has two more years of high school golf, Sullivan already has his sights set on the next level, and aspires to be a professional golfer one day — just like his father.

“My dream is to go to the U of O. I have always wanted to play there,” Sullivan said. “Even if I don’t get to play there, I am shooting to play at the Division I level.

“The ultimate goal is to do exactly what my dad did and get my PGA Tour card.”

Matt Rawlings: [email protected]