E.A. Sports Today

Nick’s day

Years of trying to beat his father at golf, relentless work at his game lead Ledbetter to full-ride opportunity at Talladega College

By Joe Medley
East Alabama Sports Today

WEAVER — For golfers, the opponent is the course and, to an extent, him or herself. Nick Ledbetter had to advance past his dad for getting to all of that.

Those rounds and relentless work on his game earned the reigning Calhoun County high school champion and state runner up a full ride to college.

Ledbetter made it official Wednesday, signing to play for Division II Talladega College before a Weaver High gymnasium packed with students, family and fellow golfers from other schools.

Seated at a table draped with a red, Weaver-themed cover and decorated with plaques and trophies from his career to date, and seated before a red backdrop dotted with paw-clawed Weaver “W” logos, Ledbetter lowered his gaze to choke back emotions as Weaver coach Justin Brown’s voice broke at the podium.

Then Ledbetter signed his paper, got up and hugged his father, Michael Keith Ledbetter, and mother, Nikki Ledbetter.

“You all are my rock,” he said during his brief time at the podium.

Weaver’s Nick Ledbetter hugs his father, Michael, as his mother, Nikki, looks on during Wednesday’s ceremony in Weaver High School’s gymnasium. (Photo by Joe Medley)

For a long time, Ledbetter’s dad was also his toughest opponent on the course.

“That’s what we did on weekend, with my other two kids and him,” Michael Ledbetter said. “”He just always played, and he always wanted to beat his dad.”

Nick Ledbetter called beating his dad “all I ever wanted to do,” one he got over the childlike joy of seeing his ball splash in the water.

“When I started off playing golf, I wanted to just hit in the water,” he said. “I’d go to the water and it it in the water. Now, if I hit it in the water, I get mad.”

Beating his dad took until age 12, with few nearmisses before it actually happened.

“There was one time I was tied with him through eight holes, and I made a triple bogey on the ninth hole, and I cried because he beat me,” he said. “I was mad.

“Now, it’s backward. He’s trying to beat me. He’s chasing my score, so it’s cool how it all worked out.”

Ledbetter worked tirelessly to get it that way. Brown told the story about driving by his future star’s house when Ledbetter was a sixth-grade and seeing a yard full of golf balls.

Ledbetter became Weaver’s No. 1 player as a seventh grader. Brown credits the player with doing more than the coach to popularize the sport at Weaver.

Ledbetter’s grind sets him apart, Brown said.

“About two years ago, I met up with Nick during the summer, and we were just going to play a round of golf at Silver Lakes,” Brown said. “He looked tired, and I said, ‘Why do you look so tired?’

“He said, ‘It’s my 19th day in a row of playing 18 holes.'”

The work led to opportunities. Ledbetter said he considered Southern Union, but a full ride at Talladega College also afforded him the chance to play lots of rounds on the school’s home course … Cider Ridge, in Oxford. Ledbetter is the reigning club champion.

“For the first couple of months at practice, I should get to have my parking spot right in front of the door,” he said. “That’ll be pretty cool.”

Cider Ridge owner and president Cory Etter put in a word about Ledbetter to Talladega College coach Tim King, who played a round with Ledbetter.

“He liked the way I played, and he offered me a full ride,” Ledbetter said. “I thought about it for three months because I wanted to get away. I thought about Southern Union and getting to live in Auburn. That would’ve been incredible, living in Auburn, but I think Talladega is going to be the better opportunity in the long run.”

Nick Ledbetter greets guests in Weaver High School’s library Wednesday, after his signing ceremony in the school’s gymnasium. (Photo by Joe Medley)

Cover photo: Flanked by parents Michael and Nikki, Nick Ledbetter signs Wednesday to play golf for Talladega College. (Photo by Joe Medley)

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