In the seventh grade, Keenan Denny had to decide between playing baseball and playing golf. For Denny, a rising junior at South Stokes High School, the decision came easily.
Denny chose golf because “it’s more challenging and you can play until you get old,” he said.
Considering the tremendous popularity of baseball in Stokes County, Denny went against the grain. South Stokes head boys golf coach Kent Mendenhall said he wasn’t the least bit surprised that his star golfer took the more challenging road.
“Golf — it’s never been conquered; it’s a hard game,” Mendenhall said. “It’s a game that beats you up. Keenan wants to win and you’ve got to have the competitiveness, but you’ve got to be willing to take the steps to get there.”
This past season, Denny didn’t take baby steps but rather huge leaps and bounds forward in his development as a golfer.
During the state 1A golf championships last month, Denny found himself within striking distance of winning the individual gold medal after the first day of competition. Denny shot a one-over-par 73 on the first 18 holes of the championship, and was sitting right behind defending state champion Stanhope Johnson of Bishop McGuinness and overall leader, William Whitacre. Denny shot a 79 on Day 2 and finished the championships tied for eighth place. Considering it was his first trip to the state championships, Denny’s outstanding performance was nothing short of a personal triumph.
For all these reasons and more, The Stokes News proudly names Keenan Denny its Boys Golfer of the Year.
Denny is competing in the NC Junior Championship golf tournament this week in Charlotte. Upon learning of the honor, he said he was pleased but was more focused on winning the Junior Championship.
Denny, who began hitting golf balls at 18 months old, said he’s seen a great deal of improvement in his game, particularly his mental game, between his freshman and sophomore seasons. Denny said he doesn’t get as aggravated as he used to when he hits a bad shot and if he ever needs advice, he turns to Mendenhall.
“Keenan accepted the challenge this year and worked hard to reach the next level,” Mendenhall said. “And that’s how it is in golf — you just keep working to try to improve to play against the best players and [hopefully] get to the collegiate level. It requires hard work and a lot of desire and he seems to have that.”
Mendenhall said he’s been very impressed by how much Denny has matured in the past year. Even the top professional golfers struggle to maintain an even keel on the golf course, but Denny appears to have a firm handle on his emotions.
“That’s a big sign of maturity,” Mendenhall said.
In addition to competing in statewide tournaments, Denny is playing four to five rounds a week during the offseason to constantly hone his skills.
“Keenan is willing to go out there and put it on the line and that’s important,” Mendenhall said. “He knows some days it’s going to be tough, but he really wants it — he has a lot of drive.”
Most of all, Denny has a pure love of the game, which should extend his golfing career well beyond high school.
“Keenan is doing what he needs to do — he’s seeing what’s out there,” Mendenhall said. “He’s taking the steps to get there. You never know what’s going to happen, but he’s doing the right things to get there.”