Drew McDonald had a cellphone when he was in the fourth grade.
“During the summer, his dad dropped him off at A.J. Jolly before work. And when Drew was finished golfing in the afternoon, he’d call me to come pick him up,” his mother said. “When he started playing basketball, it got hectic. But we always told him, play what you want.”
McDonald took his parents’ advice and became one of the more unusual multi-sport standouts in the area. But his golf journey may not end with the beginning of his college basketball career, as he once thought. The 6-foot-8 Newport Central Catholic senior has the option to play both golf and basketball in college after being afforded the opportunity Thursday to play golf at Northern Kentucky University, which already had offered him a basketball scholarship.
NewCath golf coach Jeff Schulkens said it’s just another first for his 245-pound standout.
“I’ve coached golf for about 20 years or so, and he’s the biggest,” Schulkens said. “I can’t remember if there’s ever been a kid get college offers in basketball and golf.”
McDonald, medalist this month at the Ninth Region All “A” Classic boys’ golf tournament, is a three-time small-school state qualifier and two-time KHSAA state qualifier. He’s a Thoroughbred running in exclusive company. Highlands senior Parker Harris has played golf, basketball and tennis. A state-qualifying golfer, Harris is taking his game to West Point. He’s won a number of golf events, but not as many as McDonald.
NewCath’s big man went 5-for-5 on the Northern Kentucky 7-Up Junior Golf Tour this summer with a win at the two-day season-ending Tour Championships at Lassing Point and Boone Links, bringing his 10-year career total to 47 tour wins. He medaled in three of NewCath’s first five events, giving him eight wins in his last 10 matches over seven weeks. In his life, he’s won close to 100 events.
“I’ve always loved golf. I’ve played it longer than basketball. It’s a lot of fun, but basketball is so exciting,” McDonald said. “I never dreamed of doing both in college. The fact I might have the opportunity is pretty cool.”
Ranked eighth in the NewCath 2015 graduating class with a 4.60 weighted grade-point average, he’s keeping his options open. After receiving the golf offer from NKU, he made an unofficial basketball visit Sunday and drove nearly six hours with family to North Carolina-Asheville. Others basketball offers have come from Columbia, St. Francis and Wright State in Division I and Kentucky Wesleyan in Division II.
Holmes’ Mike Listerman has been a basketball coach in the area for nearly 30 years, the majority at Covington Catholic, which has produced a handful of basketball-playing golfers while churning out regional titles in both sports. He can’t think of anybody who averaged 14 points, eight rebounds, a 280-yard golf drive and a score of 36 for nine holes in high school. “Everybody knows he’s a great golfer, and he’s a top big man in our region,” Listerman said. “That takes a special kid.”
McDonald’s mother, former NewCath athlete and coach Christie (Freppon) McDonald, said a growth spurt of 12 inches during middle school put her son on a more serious basketball path. But he never lost track of his golf bag.
“He had his first club when he was 2. He played his first round when he was 3. He’s been playing tournaments since he was 5, so we just assumed he was going to play golf as a sport,” said the former coach, who played softball and basketball at NKU. “But then he grew four inches each year from seventh through ninth grade, and it all shifted. Now, he’s got a basketball everywhere he goes. We have a court in our backyard with lights. He’s always out there.”
McDonald said he can’t remember receiving a one-on-one golf lesson. But he learned a lot at A.J. Jolly, where he’s medaled twice this month against Campbell County and Bishop Brossart.
Because of basketball obligations, he doesn’t practice golf as much as he would like, and self-corrects his game on the fly. An example was the regional All “A” Classic on Willows where his driver had given him trouble because of lack of control. He went off the tee all day with a 3-wood and kept shots in the fairway, helping him make greens in regulation on the way to a score of three-over-par 75.
McDonald is part of an athletic gene pool overflowing at NewCath. Grandfather Tom Freppon played basketball at NewCath and Xavier University. Father Jeff McDonald played basketball and tennis at NewCath. McDonald’s mother played three sports at NewCath. The couple has three children, all playing sports, including NewCath sophomore volleyball player Rachel McDonald.
There could be four relatives on this season’s NewCath boys’ basketball team, including McDonald and cousins Seth Freppon, Jobe Freppon and Trey Wirtz. “It makes everything a lot more fun with family around,” McDonald said. “My whole life with sports and family is a blessing.”