It don’t mean a thing if you ain’t got that swing.
Right from the start, it was obvious Melanie Manis did.
The William Blount High School senior signed a National Letter of Intent last Thursday to play golf at Carson-Newman College next season. The event, in part, was the product of a chance outing with the Lady Governor senior’s youth softball team several years ago.
While on a tournament swing through Florida that summer, the softball team’s coach took Manis and the others to a local golf course to goof off for a while. With her first swing, Manis served notice that golf, at least for her, would be no laughing matter.
While she would remain with the William Blount softball team through her freshman and sophomore seasons, golf was soon her top priority. Her rapid rate of improvement in four years of prep golf at William Blount soon bore witness Manis had made the right decision.
She trimmed seven strokes from her average score per round between her freshman and sophomore seasons, all the while leading the Lady Governors on the diamond as a softball pitcher. A reduction of 48 to 41 shots per nine holes is impressive. More so, William Blount coach Mark Davidson said, is the 1.33 strokes per round Manis removed from her scorecard between her junior and senior seasons, her senior year average of 37.87 as a Lady Governor indicative of a player destined for even bigger things on the college level.
“A stroke and a half at that level is great,” Davidson said. “That shows some good work.”
A sizeable turnout, few of them members of the golf team, were on hand to watch Manis sign with the Lady Eagles. When finished, Manis set her pen aside and received a standing ovation.
“It makes me feel really good about myself,” Manis said. “I don’t want golf to be what I am. I want it to be what I do.”
Manis captured the Blount County championship her junior year with the Lady Governors, rallying from six shots on the last day of the tournament as senior to finish a stroke back of champion and William Blount teammate Alaura Brogdon. A two-time state tournament qualifier, finishing 11th overall as a junior, Manis tied for medalist honors with a 78 at the region tournament her senior season as Lady Governor.
As a senior, Manis was tied for second at the state tournament before torrential rains washed out the final day.
Manis recently won the Green Meadow Country Club ladies tournament, becoming the first know teenager to win one of the area’s top tournaments for women since Blount County Hall of Fame great Melissa Ann Baker Furrow accomplished the feat in the mid 1960s.
It was a tough decision to leave softball after her junior year at William Blount to concentrate on golf, Manis said. She’d played softball since she was 7 and was the unquestioned Lady Governor leader on the diamond.
“That wasn’t going to carry me as far as golf could,” she said.
Once the switch to golf full-time had been made, Manis said uncles David Reynolds and Tracy “Peanut” Nuchols helped hone her game. Davidson was invaluable in making it all click on the high school level, she said. It’s why his words last week meant so much.
“I’m so thankful he’s been there,” Manis said. “If I could have anyone say something about me, that’s what I'd want to be said.”