Talbert signs with Clemson

McKenzie Talbert, having earned a reputation as one of the South's top teen golfers, is now on board with Clemson University's golf program.

The scholarship-winning honor student at Strom Thurmond High School signed her paperwork Nov. 14, confirming her plans to become part of the Tigers' first-ever women's golf team.

She has been the Rebels' top golfer since seventh grade, and the choice to attend Clemson was made easier by the preferences of her parents, Ken and Robyn Talbert, she noted.

"My parents are big Clemson fans, and Clemson's always meant a lot to me, so it wasn't much of a decision."

The 17-year-old, who started playing golf at age 3 and began competing at age 7, said she plans to major in accounting. "Well, you've got to know how to count, to play golf," she said, with a laugh.

Referring to her favorite sport, she added, "I've been at it a long time ... It was actually an accident. I was at a babysitter's house, and she had some (gear) lying around, and we went to play, and that's when I picked it up, and I haven't put it down since."

She also has kept close to her books and now sports a grade-point average of 4.376 on a weighted scale (giving credit for advanced-level classes).

Her contemporaries include former North Augusta High School star Matt NeSmith, now in his freshman year on the golf team at South Carolina.

"She's very, very good. She's very feisty. She's got a lot of heart," he said. "I've known her since we were both little."

Factors in her favor over the years have included living within putting distance of the golf course at Mount Vintage Plantation, in Edgefield County. Her parents bought a home there before the course was developed, and it opened for business in 2000, just in time for a little girl with a keen interest in golf.

Talbert confirmed that the last few days have brought a mixture of anxiety and excitement.

"It's a really big deal. I live in such a small town, and everyone knows everything, and it's just really cool walking up and down the halls with all your teachers congratulating you, and it's just an awesome feeling knowing everyone's behind me."

Talbert's achievements have included winning the individual state title as a freshman, sophomore and junior. She's also the Carolina Girls' Player of the Year.