An ACA Lion links up for the Richmond Spiders

ACA's Will Tamplin signs to golf at the NCAA Division I level

Fred McCormick

Will Tamplin has played golf for most of his life. Another constant for the Asheville Christian Academy senior has been the school, which he has attended since kindergarten.

So it was fitting that, in the school's student union, surrounded by family, friends and supporters, on Nov. 16 Tamplin signed a letter of intent with an NCAA Division I school, becoming the first student-athlete in the history of the Lions' golf program to do so.

Tamplin was joined by his parents, sister, grandparents and former ACA golf coach Happy Fox. All watched as he scribbled his name on his commitment to play for the University of Richmond.

Asheville Christian Academy senior Will Tamplin signs a letter of intent with the University of Richmond golf team.

"It feels great," he said of committing to a Division I program. "It's kind of a dream come true."

Sharing the achievement with Asheville Christian Academy - a place that has been "great for me and my growth as a person" - was an honor, Tamplin said.

"It means a lot to be able to draw attention to the fact that ACA has a really good golf program," he said.

Happy Fox knew of Tamplin before becoming head coach of the Lions four years ago.

"I first met Will when he was playing in Western North Carolina Junior Golf Association tournaments," Fox said. "He was in elementary or middle school."

Happy Fox said he was "extremely proud" of Tamplin, the first golfer from ACA to commit to play the sport at the NCAA Division I level.

Fox, a longtime PGA teaching professional in Florida, Alabama and North Carolina, knew exactly what kind of talent Tamplin possessed when Fox took over the ACA varsity golf program (he recently resigned to pursue a career outside of golf).

"Will's always been extremely talented as a golfer," Fox said. "He was tested in junior golf and started playing high school golf at an early age, so he was tested early at that next level."

Tamplin dedicated himself to improving his game year after year.

"You have your school season in the spring and tournaments pretty much all year," Tamplin said. "It's a year-round sport, so you have to work at it constantly."

Fox said Tamplin's love for the game gives him an edge mentally on the links.

"He has a passion for golf, where he always wants to improve mentally and physically," Fox said. "He's always had that desire to want to learn and adjust to improve his game. A lot of people feel that way but aren't always willing to take the risk. But Will applied what he learned, and it made him a better golfer."

Among Tamplin's accomplishments at ACA are being named to the All-WNC team by The Asheville Citizen-Times last spring, the reward for shooting an average 75 per 18-hole match. He also earned All-State honors his sophomore and junior seasons. Tamplin could have a big impact on the University of Richmond Spiders, Fox believes.

Asheville Christian Academy athletic director Joe Johnson talks about senior golfer Will Tamplin's impact on the program at the school.

"They are getting a very talented golfer who is going to want to continually improve his game," Fox said. "I anticipate he'll have the same impact there as he had with the golf program at ACA. He'll be a leader and an example academically and athletically."

Tamplin led the Lions to four consecutive state championships, recording the lowest score on the team as a freshman, sophomore and junior. He has a tournament in December before beginning his senior season for the Lions in the spring. He will join the Spiders after he graduates in spring.

"As a freshman, I would like to be able to play in matches and grow as a player," he said. "I'd like to become vital to the team. Hopefully, the team can continue to grow and improve, and we could have a shot at a national championship one day. That's the ultimate goal."