Hartsville, SC- All Hartsville High School senior AJ Sanders wanted was a chance to play golf in college.

Coker College head golf coach John Handrigan was more than happy to give Sanders the opportunity to play collegiate golf. Sanders has signed a National-Letter-of-Intent to attend Coker College and play on the Cobra golf team.

“AJ is definitely one of my best signings of the year,” said Handrigan, who has been at Coker since 2003. “He is going to have an impact right away, and I expect him to travel right away.”

Handrigan and the Cobras were the only college interested in acquiring Sanders’ services in golf.

“I really didn’t have any other offers,” said Sanders, who earned All-State honors this year. “I just wanted to go some where that I could play. I’d rather go to a small school and have an actual chance of playing, then walking on somewhere big, and not getting the chance to play.

“I have known coach Handrigan since he has been there. Coach (Dan) Schmotzer, who was the previous golf coach, had encouraged me to go there.”

While Coker, surprisingly, was the only school that wanted Sanders’ services, he is pleased to be a member of the Cobras’ squad.

Handrigan feels that Sanders has the game that is ready to play on the collegiate level.

“He has an excellent golf game and swing,” Handrigan said. “The one thing that he needs to work on is his short game and course management. Once he does that, he will be able to compete on the next level.”

Sanders is the first Hartsville High golfer to play at Coker since Jeffery Johnson played for the Cobras a few years ago.

Handrigan says it helps the program when a local player elects to attend Coker.

“It helps having a player from Hartsville on our squad,” Handrigan said. “The community knows him, and hopefully it will help get them more involved with our program.”

Sanders attended the International Junior Golf Academy for a semester and had the chance to work with Gary Gilchrist, who was Michelle Wie’s former coach.

Sanders was ranked second at the acedemy.

“It really helped me a lot,” Sanders said. “It helped me with my swing and my mental game, as well as practice.”

Sanders feels the strengths of his game are his irons and putting, and that he needs to improve on his drives.

“I just want to get better at every aspect of my game,” Sanders said.

While he doesn’t know about the playing time he will see next year at Coker, Sanders just wants to go out and contribute.

“I am not expecting to step in a start right away, but I would like to help them out,” said Sanders.

Sanders participated as an individual at the AAAA state tournament, finishing ninth, shooting rounds of 72-80-72.

Sanders recently represented Hartsville High in the annual North/South All Star Classic at Myrtle Beach.

While the South squad struggled, losing 10-6, Sanders won two of his three matches.

Sanders hasn’t decided on a major at Coker, a decision he is expecting to make over the summer.

The Coker golf program has enjoyed success the last two years.

In 2006 Coker won the CVAC title and the South Regional on its way to an 11th-place finish at the national tournament. This past spring Coker finished fifth in the region and fell just short of qualifying for the nationals.

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