by Kirstyn Cotton and Jacob Presson, Focus
Feeling his heart pound, junior Top Kamnark closes his eyes and envisions his next move. If he sinks the putt, he takes home the record for Midland High. If he misses, he has to deal with coming so close and failing to make history. Carefully controlling his mind and emotions, Kamnark makes the putt and erases the previous 18-hole record of 68 replacing it with an awe-inspiring 67 at Forest Akers.
Golf has been a part of Kamnark’s life for as long as he can remember. After picking up a club when he was just two years old, he fell in love and has continued to improve his game. Kamnark finished 11th in the state last year and aims to place higher this year. He plans to pursue a professional career in the future.
“My goal for the team is to go to states again,” Kamnark said. “Personally, I want to try to finish top three. I’d be happy with top five, but my goal is top three as an individual.”
The key to Kamnark’s success has been practicing hard and staying focused, as well as working closely with his father on his swing. He regularly sends videos of his swing to his father, a professional golfer in Thailand and the man who first exposed him to the game, for pointers. Kamnark credits his love for the game to his father.
“[When I was younger], my dad wanted me to love the game first,” Kamnark said. “He didn’t push me at two years old to grip the club a certain way or to look at the ball or anything like that, but he made me love the game.”
Varsity golf coach Jeff Babin has known Kamnark since he first moved to the United States the summer before his freshman year, and has enjoyed coaching him for the last three years.
“[Kamnark’s] entire game is powerful, accurate, and confident,” Babin said. “I feel his mental game is in the elite category. He always sees the positive and he’s not afraid to go low.”
Kamnark’s mental toughness has not only impressed his coach, but also his teammates. Senior Mitchell Gardner, who has had Kamnark as a teammate for the past three years, credits much of Kamnark’s success to his grit and ability to get through a rough patch, along with his willingness to put in hours of practice.
“[Kamnark] is so successful because the mental side of his game is so strong,” Gardner said. “He can get angry or quiet and you might think he’s off his game, but he is always so focused and is much smarter on the course than he might seem.”
Despite the impression that he leaves on his teammates and coach, Kamnark admits that he is not immune to pre-tournament nerves. He is not always as cool on the inside as he seems on the outside.
“Even though I’ve played in so many tournaments, I am always nervous for the first few holes,” Kamnark said.
Golf also played a role in helping Kamnark gain friends in his transition from Thailand to the United States, as well as from middle school to high school
“I was very scared [when I came to America],” said Kamnark. “I didn’t speak English that well and I knew high school was going to be a lot different than middle school. I was worried about which friend group I would be in, but golf helped me get involved with other people, as well as soccer and the ping pong club.”
Now, just a few years after moving to Midland, Kamnark faces another challenge as he plans to make yet another move to South Carolina with the Babin family.
“Top has met so many awesome friends here at MHS,” Babin said. “Kids have been so welcoming of him. He is easy to love, but it was a transition moving to the United States. Moving his senior year is not ideal, and the team he will transition to is not an elite program. The upside for him is golf year round and he’ll be closer to Chaz and Conor, his adopted brothers.”
Looking at the road ahead, Kamnark is sad to leave his Chemic golf family behind, as they have grown so close over the years; However, he knows that South Carolina will bring him new experiences.
“I will miss the guys in our golf group because we get along so well with each other,” Kamnark said. “I have a lot of friends here and it will be weird going to a new school as a senior, but I am still excited for the experience.”