The Baylor School connection
The PGA TOUR’s season opener included an improbable four players from the same high school in Tennessee
October 10, 2017
By Mike McAllister, PGATOUR.COM
- Henry King Oehmig instilled a passion to constantly be competing in his student-athletes. (Photo c/o Baylor School)
NAPA, Calif. – PGA TOUR rookie Keith Mitchell has a collection of hats and T-shirts safely stored in his home. Mementoes from his high school days at the Baylor School less than a decade ago, each piece of apparel is adorned with a six-letter acronym: O.A.C.O.A.W.
It’s what his old legendary golf coach, Henry King Oehmig, used to stress to his student-athletes.
Open A Can Of Ass Whoop.
“That’s what he would always say,” Mitchell said. “Open a can, open a can. That’s his No. 1 right there.”
It was Oehmig’s endearing way of stressing the importance of constantly competing, relentlessly push yourself, always try your hardest. His goal was to bring out the best in his golfers, help them reach their full potential.
His message has never been more evident on the PGA TOUR than at last week’s Safeway Open, the opening event of the 2017-18 season. Four of his players – Mitchell, Harris English, Stephan Jaeger and Luke List -- were in the 144-man field at Silverado, a remarkably high percentage at for one high school. It also beats the three grads from Florida’s Milton High School – Bubba Watson, Boo Weekley and Heath Slocum.
“I think we’ve got them,” English said with a smile. Ultimately, Jaeger was low Baylor School alum at the Safeway Open with a tie for 30th. List tied for 37th, while English and Mitchell missed the cut.
This weekend, English will return to the Baylor campus at Chattanooga, Tennessee, for Alumni Weekend. On Sunday, he and List will be inducted into the school’s Sports Hall of Fame, becoming part of a club that also includes Oehmig, a 1969 Baylor graduate who was inducted in 2014. (List will not be in attendance, as he’s playing in this week’s CIMB Classic in Malaysia.)
Sadly, Oehmig, who coached both the boys’ and girls’ teams to a combined 21 state championships in 12 years, will not be there. Less than a year after his Hall of Fame induction, he died suddenly at age 63 from a heart attack while fly fishing. Had he lived, no doubt he would have enjoyed the weekend and taken great pride in seeing four of his best players compete against each other in golf’s highest level.
“He’s definitely smiling right now,” English said while standing just off the practice green at Silverado. “Four guys that he coached that we all kind of leaned on him and all had success at Baylor and beyond because of him. That’s pretty cool to see.”
Here is their story.
As a private institution that offers boarding for non-local residents, Baylor School can draw from not only the United States but all over the world. List was the first to arrive in the late 1990s, then English a few years later, soon followed by Jaeger – an exchange student from Germany – and Mitchell, the only one raised in Chattanooga. It’s not cheap to attend Baylor. According to the school’s website, the current tuition costs for this school year are $23,980 for day tuition, $48,842 for boarding domestic and $52,422 for boarding international. Scholarships and other financial aid are available.
MITCHELL: “Baylor had such a name for itself in all these sports that if a kid's parents wanted to send them to a school where they got an incredible education but fulfilled their athletic needs or dreams, Baylor was the place to go. It didn't matter what sport it was. It was just a great academic school that you kind of had everything you needed if you wanted to play sport at the next level but still get an education that was suited enough to go to any school in the country. You didn't have to recruit. I don't think it's allowed. It didn't matter. People knew about it. People wanted to go there.”
LIST: “I was living in Jasper, Georgia at the time. I found out about it and I boarded my first year, so I was away from home. And then I have two younger sisters and my parents decided to move the family there, because my sisters were competitive swimmers. They also had a really good swim team, and my mom wanted all of us home. It worked out nicely just being home. I know Harris was a boarder there and Stephan Jaeger was a boarder.”
ENGLISH: “I went in ninth grade. It was after Luke, but I knew he was a really, really good player. I had met him before. It was really because of Coach O. I went up there and visited and really loved the place. It was a place for me to get better in my golf game, get better in academics and to set me up to go to a college I wanted to, which was Georgia. It was the next step in kind of the whole process. My parents really believed in that, and it was probably one of the best decisions of my life, them sending me to Baylor, affording for me to go to a school like that.”
JAEGER: “I was 17. I was a junior in high school. The (exchange) organization we were with worked with 40 schools, 40 high schools that they had contacts with. It was between that and a couple other ones and I picked that one. Had read about Harris. He was the oldest guy there. Luke was already gone. He was committed to Georgia and all that. So we just kind of knew that the team was going to be good. Ended up winning State all the years I was there.”
MITCHELL: “I was very, very fortunate. My dad went there, actually. He played sports there. So I was kind of just bred that I was going to go there and that's what I was going to do.”
Once on campus, the student-athletes quickly realized the depth of talent on their team – as well as the expectation level that came with it. Practices were competitive, sometimes tougher than tournaments, and nobody received a free pass from Coach O. Ultimately, teammates pushed each other, and success followed. List was the Tennessee state champion in 2001 and 2002; English won state in 2005 and also led his team to four straight team championships. Mitchell said in his first three years, Baylor never lost a single tournament.
LIST: “I came in and no one really knew who I was. I won the qualifying as a ninth grader. I was No. 1 as a ninth grader, and the guys were kind of pissed. King was just, You keep opening a can on those guys, it'll push them. He was always competitive. Everything we did was a competition. Eating contests, cards, whatever it was, we were always competing. So that was cool.”
ENGLISH: “We had a really good team and pushed each other. I really liked that. I liked the competition. That is what I saw at Baylor. I thought I was a really good player in eighth grade. Then I went to high school and I was playing No. 3 on the team. Two guys were better than me. I like having that, I like practicing and playing with guys who are better than me. That's what made me better at Baylor.”
MITCHELL: “If you didn't prepare and you didn't practice and you didn't want to be the best, then you weren't even going to make the high school team. That was the difference at Baylor than most other places. That was the norm there. That was the going rate.”
JAEGER: “It was kind of like a college feel there. You practiced. You would practice in the afternoon with each other. You work every day and stuff. It was a cool experience for sure.”
MITCHELL: “Just with practice schedules and the tournaments and qualifying. It was run like a college program with our coach. He was incredible at just motivating us and keeping us striving to be the best we could be. And that's really the difference was we looked less of it as a really good high school team and more of it as we all wanted to play on the PGA TOUR from that day forward.”
ENGLISH: “We all pushed each other and helped each other get better, and practicing and playing and learning different things from each player. Coach just had a great system. We played a lot. We practiced a lot. We had fun on the road. When we show up at tournaments, we knew we were going to win. We had the confidence that we just knew we'd lean on each other and play well. “
MITCHELL: “We all had aspirations to play in college and on the PGA TOUR even at that age. It was less of winning in high school. It was more of we were trying to be the best players we could be for the future. It really helped having that environment with such good players around us, and a coach that treated us like we were going to play on the PGA TOUR and not just really good high school players.”
List attended Vanderbilt and earned All-American honors all four years; he was also runner-up at the 2004 U.S. Amateur. He turned pro in 2007 and comes off his best TOUR season in which he ranked 50th in FedExCup points.English went to Georgia and, like List, was a four-time All-American. Since turning pro in 2011, he’s won twice on TOUR. Jaeger stayed in the area after graduating from Baylor, as he attended Tennessee-Chattanooga. He won twice on the Web.com Tour last season, and in 2016, he won the Ellie Mae Classic after shooting an opening-round 12-under 58, the lowest score in Web.com Tour history. Mitchell followed English’s path, attending Georgia and has also moved to the Sea Island, Georgia, area, where English lives. Each one appreciates the Baylor connections.
ENGLISH: “I've known Keith for a long time. He was in eighth grade when I first met him or maybe even younger. I think he played on the team in the eighth grade. Jaeger came over from Germany my senior year. We all got to play on the same team for one year. We stayed in great touch, we're great friends. And then Luke List, he was kind of a mentor to me. Obviously five years older, but he's had a great career and he was a reason why I went to Baylor and why Baylor had such success.”
LIST: “He's (English) done well without any of my influence. And obviously he's won a couple of times, so he's had a far better career than I have so far. I'm hopefully a late bloomer. … I've got nothing but great things to say about Harris and his game and his personality. If I did anything to help with that, then I'll take very little credit.”
MITCHELL: “Played the last two seasons with Stephan Jaeger on the Web.com Tour, so we spent multiple weeks rooming together, playing practice rounds together, everything. Just helping each other with each other's games. Then Harris lives in Sea Island. So when I'm home, I get to see Harris. Stephan and I were both in Harris' wedding. We're as close as friends can get. I live in the same city as Harris. Now I'm going to see him a lot more being on the road and the same city. … I think Luke lives in California now. I haven't seen him in a while just because of the difference in the schedules. But he actually texted me when I got my card and said he was looking forward to hanging out.”
JAEGER: “We have so many new memories about college and out here and on the Web with me and Keith. I think it's more of a live-in-the-present kind of thing. … It was a good time (in high school) and I wouldn't trade it for anything.”
ENGLISH: “He’s (Mitchell) kind of been a little brother to me. He played on the team in eighth grade and I have seen him grow up. I've seen him mature as a person as well as a player. His game has really come around and he's a solid, solid player. I don't think he has any weaknesses. There were times where he had some weaknesses throughout high school and college, but he's definitely worked hard and he's got all-around game that he can hit it far, he can chip and putt. He can do everything. That's why he's had such success this year on the Web.com. I don't think anybody in our group was surprised by the way he played. Every time we go home, he plays well. He's got a lot of confidence.
“Same thing with Jaeger. I've said from Day 1 since I met him, he's one of best guys I've seen. He's got probably the best work ethic I've ever seen. Believes in himself. He's got that will to win. You could see that when he shot 58, when he won the tournament by a lot.”
LIST: “It’s cool to see Keith getting his card right away. He’s playing great. And Stephan also. He played so well last year and to continue this year, well, those guys have bright futures.”
ENGLISH: “It's good to have guys out here who aren't trying to beat you up, who you can say, ‘Hey, man, what do you think about this? What do you think about this swing or what do you think about my stance?’ They are willing to help and give their advice. It's good to have guys like that out here who are really good friends of yours and can help out. It for sure can get lonely out here traveling, so it's been awesome. We have a special bond.”