Forrest Atkins signs

Forrest Atkins signed with Tennessee Wesleyan men’s golf on Monday. Pictured here with his parents, TWU head coach Jeff Rice and Tellico Plains High School Athletic Director Shawn Yates.

Forrest Atkins put in the work.

He can recall countless hours of playing golf, perfecting his craft in all types of weather and conditions. It’s a process that took place across his high school career at Tellico Plains.

Now, that grind has paid off.

Atkins signed with the Tennessee Wesleyan golf team on Monday, officially sealing the deal to continue his playing career in college.

“(Tennessee Wesleyan) is near and dear to my home,” Atkins said. “It’s not far from where I live, my hometown, so they share the same home course at Kahite that I’ve had for four years. (I have) multiple friends going there. Met Coach (Jeff) Rice and just fell in love with him as a person.

“I feel like we’re going to have a chance to win some championships in the future and it’s exciting.”

Atkins recently made a run to the TSSAA Small Class Boys’ Championship in October, concluding at the No. 32 spot out of 64. He made the state tournament last year as well as the first Tellico boy golfer to qualify for state.

“(My Tellico Plains career was) more of just improvement,” Atkins said. “Because when I was a freshman, I was at the bottom of the team and knew I had a long way to go work. It was just a matter of getting out every day and grinding and trying to get to the next level.”

Rice, TWU’s head men’s golf and women’s basketball coach, has had Atkins on his radar for a while.

“I tell everybody the same thing: We try to sign the best local kids we can sign,” Rice said. “We’ve known about Forrest for a while. We’ve seen the scores he’s been shooting at the district, region tournaments the last couple years. Getting to the state tournament. And again, we just try to sign the best local kids we can.

“I’ve done that in basketball , and we’ll continue to do that in golf as well.”

The TWU men’s golf team finished its fall season on Oct. 22, competing in the Appalachian Athletic Conference Fall Preview. The Bulldogs placed No. 3 overall at the tournament with a three-day score of 909.

Rice is in his second season at the helm of the program, having previously coached TWU’s women’s golf team.

“I just think it’s important that those (local) kids come to Wesleyan,” Rice said. “They’re the kids that live in this community. They don’t have to go two hours away to go to school.

“It gives their moms and dads a chance to watch them play, gives them a chance to grow up around here and continue to go to college around here, and hopefully come back here and stay here.”

Now, thanks to all of that work, Atkins will have that opportunity.

“It’s just a matter of all those hours I’ve put in on the course when it was hot or cold,” Atkins said. “Just seeing it pay off and looking forward to getting with a team that will work with me, that might be better than me, that will help me get to that next level and see if we can go win some rings.”

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