By Jacob Arvidson

SHELBY – Growing up on a golf course definitely has its advantages.

Keaton Inglis, Shelby High School’s senior golf star, had that unique opportunity.

Marc Inglis, Keaton’s father, has been the pro at Oceana Golf Club for more than 20 years, so Keaton naturally gravitated toward the links.

Keaton Inglis looks down the fairway after his drive. Photo/Jason Goorman

“I go to work with my dad every single morning,” he said. “As early as I can remember, I was practicing with short, junior clubs. He introduced me to the game, but he never pushed it on me. It was always that I enjoyed playing.”

All those years of constant practice are paying off this spring. Inglis is having an incredible senior season, finishing first in all but two of the Shelby’s golf team’s events so far.

He has his sights set even bigger success as the prep season winds down over the next few weeks.

After finishing 21st overall at the MHSAA Division 3 state finals in 2016, Inglis is aiming for an individual state championship this year, which has been his goal since he began his high school career.

Inglis’ talent started emerging when he was nine and won his first junior tournament. Another milestone came when he was 12, when he beat his father for the first time.

“That was a really big point in my life,” he said about besting his dad. “When I was younger I didn’t play a lot of tournaments because I wasn’t that good. I really didn’t start getting good until middle school.”

Since then, Inglis’ career has taken off.

He said his finest moment was outside high school competition, when he won the Oceana Golf Club championship in 2015 against much older competition.

The 16-year-old upended defending champion Doug Raeth, a 66-year-old veteran, 4 and 2 in the match-play finals.

“That was huge for me,” he said. “It gave me confidence that I could play with anyone, even if they were older.”

Inglis putts during a recent conference jamboree. Photo/Jason Goorman

Inglis’ home course lacks a driving range. So as a youngster, while other junior golfers were smashing balls on the driving range, he was practicing chipping and putting.

The result was the perfection of his short game, something most young golfers do not have. It has separated him from the high school pack and made him the best golfer in the West Michigan Conference, and probably one of the best in the state.

“It has helped him stay in the 70s every round this year,” Shelby golf coach Rick Zoulek said about Inglis’ short game. “When he gets in trouble, or ends up short on the green or a little bit long on the green, I would say 99 percent of the time he’s going to save par.

“His short game is that good. He only has three double bogeys this year.”

Inglis’ best round so far in 2017 was a 71, which he shot at Old Channel Trail Golf Course in Montague, but his average has stayed only a few strokes higher in the mid-70s.

He’s taken first place in seven of nine high school events this season. His victories have all come on different courses – Moss Ridge, Colonial, Stonegate, Old Channel Trail, Oceana Golf Club, Royal Canadian and Benona Shores.

He took second in one event and fourth in another.

Inglis will continue his golf career next season at Northwood University, an NCAA Division II school in Midland.

“Coach Dave Turner is an incredible guy,” Inglis said about the Northwood coach. “Their home course is Midland Country Club and it’s absolutely incredible. They just built a brand new clubhouse that cost $34 million. It’s next level and it’s really going to be a great experience.”

Wherever golf takes Shelby’s rising star, the words of his father will always keep him grounded on the course.

“The best advice he has ever given me is to know what you can do and what you can’t do,” Inglis said. “If you have a bad hole, play every round shot-by-shot until there’re no more shots to have, because the round is over.”