When one door closed on Windermere Prep alum Barry Babbitt’s college basketball career, another opened on the golf course. Now a senior golfer for Rollins College, Babbitt just won a prestigious amateur tournament in Virginia.
People in the Windermere Prep athletics community probably don’t remember much about Barry Babbitt’s golf career with the Lakers.
Why would they?
Babbitt, himself, said he was not very good in high school — and then there’s the fact that his time on the hardwood for the Lakers boys basketball team was significantly more memorable.
Windermere Prep basketball coach Ben Wilson said Babbitt was one of the best players to have ever come through the program, and his strong play for the Lakers earned him a scholarship offer to Brown University.
It might come as a surprise then that Babbitt’s most significant athletic achievement since graduating from Windermere Prep in 2013 has come on the golf course — and it happened just a few weeks ago.
Babbitt, who will be a senior golfer for Rollins College in Winter Park this fall, won the Eastern Amateur Golf Tournament in Virginia earlier this month. Babbitt finished at 16-under-par for the tournament, shooting a 65 on the final day — including six birdies and just one bogey — to seal the deal.
The event is a 72-hole stroke play event that features some of the best amateur golfers in the nation, and several of whom’s past winners have gone on to careers in the PGA Tour.
“It was really special to be in the same conversation as some Hall-of-Famers,” Babbity said. “(It) is pretty unique, and not a lot of people can say it. I was just hitting my driver really well. It was a short course and everybody was hitting irons and I was hitting my driver and it just made it so much easier.”
Babbitt counts the win at the Eastern as his biggest achievement yet, noting it has opened some doors for his budding career. The road to this point, though, has involved some twists and turns that few could have foreseen in the summer of 2013 when he left Central Florida to begin his college basketball career.
First, after arriving at Brown, he was told he likely would have to sit out his first year on campus — something that didn’t sit well with him. As a result, Babbitt transferred to a Division III program in Kentucky, where he could play right away, but the move to a small school in a more rural area never felt right.
“I picked up golf for fun at first, but then I realized I was making some progress.”
“I felt so out of place, and that’s when I realized I needed to come home and focus on academics,” Babbitt said. “I picked up golf for fun at first, but then I realized I was making some progress.”
Indeed, Babbitt’s reunion with golf in the summer of 2014 largely coincided with some newly discovered free time now that he wasn’t training all the time for basketball. As the summer went on, he liked what he saw and figured he would at least inquire about trying out for the team at Rollins, where he had transferred to study math.
Getting the staff at Rollins, a Division II program, to take him seriously might have been harder had he not already had a friend on the team. That said, he tried out and did well enough to make the team. Babbitt had to redshirt during the 2014-2015 school year, but in the fall of 2015, he made his debut as a college golfer for the Rollins Tars.
“(I remember) walking up to that first tee — it was unlike any pressure I’ve ever felt before,” Babbitt said.
The Lakers alum surprised himself by playing well in that first tournament, but that did not mean everything was smooth sailing after. The level of play of Division II golf was better than he expected. In addition, he was still wrestling with the idea that he was no longer playing basketball.
One turning point that helped Babbitt wrap his head around his new path was when he qualified to play in U.S. Open Sectional tournament in 2016. Although he did not advance to the U.S. Open, he got to play a round with professional legend Vijay Singh, and the experience whet his appetite for more. Making the field for the U.S. Open is now one of his top goals.
Another turning point happened more recently, when Babbitt was able to channel the type of golfer he wants to be — an aggressive golfer, much the same as he was on the court.
“Everybody knew who I was when I played basketball — I had a certain style. I’d say it has taken me a good three years to find my swag (on the golf course).”
“For a while, I just didn’t have an identity on the golf course,” Babbitt said. “Everybody knew who I was when I played basketball — I had a certain style. I’d say it has taken me a good three years to find my swag (on the golf course).”
As he prepares for his senior season at Rollins — and hopefully a professional career beyond it — Babbitt is focused on improving his short game. He keeps tabs on the Lakers, marveling at the growth of the program that won just eight games when he was a sophomore, and is still friends with Wilson, his former coach.
As he moves forward, he said it is the support group at home, on campus and at his home course — Grand Cypress in Horizon West — that has helped him make the transition.
“I’ve had a lot of really helpful people in my life that have pushed me in the right direction,” Babbitt said. “For me to see (my career progress) so fast, it’s just surreal.”
Contact Steven Ryzewski at [email protected].