Approach Shot: Tyler 'Chip' McDaniel

Tucked in the mountains of eastern Kentucky rests a county that thrives on their historic landscape and Appalachian history. The red-letter county is best known for their swinging bridges, the Gateway to Elk Country, numerous ATV trails, high school basketball and perhaps Kentucky golfer Tyler “Chip” McDaniel? 

Clay County, located to the east of Laurel County and north of Knox County, is home of Manchester, Ky. and where McDaniel grew up. He is the son to Todd and Jennifer McDaniel and younger brother to Todd McDaniel, former UK Men’s Golf Team member. 

McDaniel played basketball for Clay County High School and even made the Kentucky All-State boys’ basketball team. But what McDaniel is especially notable for doesn’t hinge on to a basketball court with flat rubber, soles. Instead, McDaniel specializes in a game where spikes rest on the foundation of maintained grass.

Golf is the name of the game for McDaniel, a sophomore majoring in accounting. McDaniel proved an impressive record in high school capturing the 2013 Kentucky State Amateur Champion title, the 2013 National PGA Junior Champion title and the Kentucky Junior Amateur Champion for three straight years.

What’s even more impressive about McDaniel’s high school record is his earning of the Academic All-State honors each year of high school while maintaining a 4.0 GPA. It’s a no-brainer Coach Brian Craig wanted McDaniel to be apart of the winning golf program at UK.

“Chip is a big time player,” said Craig. “He is a big-time athlete. We do almost no critique with his game to be honest with you.”

Of course a game molded around the competitive Rickie Fowler is more than impressive. Fowler, an Oklahoma State upshot and current PGA Tour player, is McDaniel’s favorite professional golfer. 

Perhaps it is the youthful success or spunky attitude that caught McDaniel’s eye about Fowler, but it certainly wasn’t the Stillwater orange he wears. McDaniel’s favorite part about being a UK student-athlete just so happens to be the Kentucky blue gear.

McDaniel has always been a fan of UK sports and weighed heavy in the reason he chose to play golf at the school. He has already imposed a remarkable talent for the wildcats starting 11 tournaments in his freshman season and ranking second on the team with a 72.12 stroke average. 

McDaniel also led the team to a top four finish in this year’s season opener in Puerto Rico and even paired with UK alumnus and professional golfer J.B. Holmes in the Northern Trust Open Collegiate Showcase in mid-February. 

McDaniel is well on his way to a career in golf, as long as he does not overthink the game too much. An interesting trend about McDaniel is that he never keeps score in his practice rounds. It’s a pre-tournament superstition, according McDaniel.

“I think the biggest thing with Chip is just getting him to focus on the process, throw out any expectations and just play golf,” said Craig. “He can be a little hard on himself. He can expect perfection and sometimes when it doesn’t play that way he can be too hard on himself.”

Hard work is something McDaniel is well-versed in and it certainly paid off for him when he got to meet Donald Trump while playing in the PGA Junior Championship at Trump National Golf Club in Washington, D.C.

Though McDaniel’s accomplishments seem outstanding to the average eyes, he wouldn’t agree until his dream golf experience comes true. The one course McDaniel wishes to play at is Pebble Beach Golf Course in Calif., with none other than his dad, brother and golfing legend Jack Nicklaus.

When it is time for McDaniel to refuel, his favorite place to grab a bite to eat is JDI Grille & Tavern in Lexington, Ky., then to play basketball with some friends. McDaniel’s iPod dubs to the sound of country music and his secret talent is hidden in a game of ping pong.