CR’s Miller enjoys the challenge of golf

CAMDEN — Golf-wise, Matthew Miller had a pretty bad day.

Playing in the first round of the 2018 DIAA state tournament, the Caesar Rodney High sophomore carded a 93 at Odessa National.

Riders’ coach John Newman remembers riding home in the team van with the youngster.

“He was really depressed,” said Newman. “The body language was like, I wasn’t sure if he really wanted to play. I said, ‘Matt, listen, today’s over. I hope you qualify. Go out and just do your best tomorrow.’”

Miller did better than that. He chopped 18 strokes off his score, firing a second-round 75, which was tied for the fourth-best round of the day.

Caesar Rodney High’s Matt Miller finished fifth in the DIAA golf state championship tournament last spring.

By Miller’s junior season, last spring, he won the Henlopen Conference individual golf title and finished fifth in the state tourney. With that kind of improvement, Newman was eager to see what Miller could accomplish this spring as a senior.

But, even with the high school spring-sports season canceled, Newman thinks Miller leaves behind a high school resume to be proud of.

“He works at the game,” said Newman. “I really think he loves the game — he loves to play and loves to compete. He doesn’t like to lose.
“He’s got a great inner confidence about himself. It really helps him out on the course.”

Miller, who moved to Camden from the Lake Forest School District before his freshman year, first started playing golf when he was only about five years old. His dad, Ammon, played the sport.

There was just something about golf that Miller liked.

“When I first started, I absolutely fell in love with the game,” he said. “I don’t know, it was something different. You have to put so much into your golf game. You have to put your mindset into it, your swing into it … It was just something so different compared to other sports. It was a little more challenging to me.”

Miller eventually became the kid who was practicing his swing in his front yard every day.

But, even though he was a relatively experienced golfer, Miller remembers being nervous when he first got to CR. He’d been in the Lake Forest district since second grade.

Miller captured the Henlopen Conference golf state title a season ago.

“I’d played with two of the seniors that year before the season started,” said Miller. “But once the actual season started, it was so new to me. I had to put more into my game to make the starting team.”

Even as a freshman, though, Miller earned a spot among CR’s top four players. He remained there for the next three years.

In the decade since Newman has been CR’s golf coach, he’s kept track of how many times each player has earned medalist honors.

The record in that span was 21. Miller was going into his senior season having been the medalist a total of 17 times in his career.

“I was really surprised because, when I first went there, I didn’t think I’d make the top four — maybe top six,” he said.

Miller would have had a chance at contending for some more titles this spring. The Henlopen Conference tournament was slated for his home course of Wild Quail Country Club with the DIAA state tourney at Dover’s Maple Dale.

“I thought he was going to have a heck of a year,” said Newman. “A lot of people, they get used to their home course and they’re really comfortable there.

“Matt’s comfortable with his game. And, when you’re comfortable with your game, then it travels. That’s special about a kid like that.”
Miller said he likes playing in those big, season-ending events.

“It’s a lot more challenging,” he said. “You have to use your brain to be smart in how to play in those competitions against smarter and better kids. I love the pressure. It makes you focus a whole lot more on the game.”

So, sure, Miller remembers that big, 18-shot turnaround he made at the state tournament as a sophomore. He was proud of himself for sticking with it.

After his 93, Miller went out and worked on his swing until he figured out the problem.

“The first day was not good,” he said. “I didn’t know what I was doing. The first day was hard. I didn’t want to play the second day because I played so badly.

“But, after I went home, I wanted to prove myself that I could turn this around and actually produce a good score.”

While he’s disappointed not to be able to play his senior high school season, Miller is going to continue his career at NCAA Division II Wilmington University in the fall. The 18-year-old isn’t sure what he’s going to do with his life yet but he plans on making golf part of it.

“Absolutely,” he said. “I want to play this game as long as I can. Other sports, you can only play into your late 30s. Golf, you can play into your 60s and 70s. I want to be able to play this game that long.”

Sports editor Andy Walter can be reached at 741-8227 or walter@newszap.com.