Tigers' Miller saves his best for last
Cole Miller's earliest golf memory is from when he was 5 years old.
He was in his yard playing with a club his father Carl had designed when he surprised himself as well as his parents and caught one on the sweet spot.
"I wasn't paying attention to where I was aiming," said Miller. "I hit it right into my mom's Durango. I hit it just perfect. I thought my parents were going to yell and scream at me. My dad came out. He had seen the shot and he actually gave me a high five."
From then on, Miller learned to pick a target and send the ball soaring toward it. By the end of his eighth-grade year he had already made two holes in one.
The Northwestern senior hit the high school ranks four years ago and was his team's top player immediately. As a sophomore he won his first Colonial League and District 11 titles and made his first trip to regionals and states.
As a junior, Miller won leagues again, took second at districts and went on to second place in the PIAA Class AA Championship.
Last fall, in his final high school campaign, Miller had his best season. He won leagues, districts and regionals before taking second again at states.
His season earned him a third straight TIMES NEWS Golfer of the Year honor.
"I feel really great about my senior season," he said. "I accomplished a ton of goals. The only one I let slide was to win states. But I put on a good showing out at states and that's all I could really ask for.
"I got to spend my last season with a lot of my friends on the golf team. To play with them, have fun and be competitive was the perfect way to end my high school golf career."
Miller also helped put the young Northwestern golf program on the map. He had one of the best No. 2 players around in Nick Vecellio, and they led the Tigers to two straight Colonial League team tournaments as well as last year's District 11 team tournament, the first for the program.
During that time the Penn State-bound Miller has kept honing his game. He's set course records. He's won club championships. He's won in junior golf. He's learned to hit nearly all of the shots required for players that want to move on to the next level.
One key to his success is staying grounded. He takes one shot at a time, one round at a time, one event at a time. He keeps working hard and seldom takes time to bask in the glory of what he's achieved.
"Sometimes when I look back I'm a little shocked," he said. "It feels like when you leave the golf course you always think about the couple things you could have improved on instead of what you just accomplished."
Miller posted an under-par scoring average each of the last two season, 67 last fall and 66.5 as a sophomore.
"But this year we had one less match," Miller said.
That's the quiet confidence evident in so many great golfers. Miller knows that just one more match, just one more chance to fire a 65 or lower, and his average would have improved. And improvement is always the top goal.
His confidence is well-founded. He's been successful at the game all the way back to his first year of junior golf.
At 9 years old he started playing Golf Association of the Lehigh Valley tournaments.
"My third tournament I went on a run where I won like five in a row or six in a row," he said. "I had a lot of fun playing those nine-hole matches."
Unlike a lot of great young golfers, Miller hasn't been over-coached into a mechanical swing. He gets guidance from his father and from Northwestern's second-year head coach Tim Miller.
"My dad and Tim like to look at my swing but we never really change anything," Cole said. "What they do change is my approach to the game and the way I see different shots."
Miller has been stepping up his tournament schedule every year and this year he's making a big leap. He will attempt to qualify for the highest level of amateur tournaments, USGA events like the Public Links Championship and the National Amateur Tournament.
It all started on that day in his yard with a shortened club. But there's been a lot of work that's gone into Miller's career. His parents, Carl and Jenny, didn't mind the dent in the car, or the hundreds, if not thousands of miles driving to tournaments or just over to Blue Ridge Country Club for some practice.
"I owe my entire golf career to them," said Cole. "They basically allowed me to play golf from a young age and just supported me with it. My dad was always there to help me with anything I wanted to do with my swing or any tournaments I wanted to play."
Miller's next stop is college golf. After that, he plans to make every effort to continue his career at the highest level.
"That would be my dream," he said. "I have a chance to live my dream if I just keep working at it."