Future ‘green jacket’ could be a possibility for junior golfer Simms Abney
Like many junior golfers, Simms Abney dreams of putting on a green jacket after winning the Masters Tournament.
Unlike many of those golfers, though, Simms stands a good chance of one day doing it.
Simms verbally committed to play for the University of Alabama as a freshman.
Three years later, the 18-year-old has racked up numerous titles and trophies and is only months away from signing a letter of intent to play at the school.
“The official signing day is in November. I’ve been looking forward to that for three years,” he said.
Simms might be looking forward to that moment but hasn’t taken his mind off the here and now.
The Jackson Preparatory School senior practices almost every day, but still finds time to give to charity, make good grades and go to his little brother Owen’s baseball games.
“He’s my biggest fan,” Simms said of his brother. “He’s the smart one. He’ll go to MIT or something like that.”
Simms, though, is no slacker himself. As a junior, Simms maintained a 3.8 grade-point average, all while helping lead the Patriot’s golf team to a third consecutive Mississippi Association of Independent Schools AAAA title.
He followed that win this summer by winning the Mississippi Junior Amateur Championship at Reunion Golf and Country Club, and a PGA Junior Qualifier in New Orleans.
The victory in New Orleans qualified Simms to play in the Junior Championships in Valhalla, Ken. There, Simms made the final cut, but came up short in a field of about 60 of the nation’s best junior golfers.
Good grades and golf aside, Simms is also part of Leadership Links, a program sponsored by the American Junior Golf Association, that allows golfers to give back to charity.
The program allows contributors to give one-time donations or a contribution for each birdie made by a particular junior golfer. Those funds, in turn, are given to the charity of that golfer’s choice.
Through the program, Simms has raised nearly $2,000 for the Blair E. Batson Children’s Hospital.
Retired Prep golf coach Nell Bradford revealed the secret to Simms’ success: his maturity and strong work ethic.
“He’s a hard worker. I’ve run into him (on the golf course) and he’s working on things that aren’t much fun, like his short game,” she said. “He’s not a good player by accident.”
She said one motivating factor is that Simms is not content with simply winning but doing so in an overwhelming fashion.
“He would love to win by 10 strokes, not three,” she said. “He’s very mature for his age in terms of what he wants to get accomplished.”
The junior golfer has been around the game most of his life and credits his father and grandfather for getting him into it.
“I’d take him to hit balls when I went to practice,” Luke Abney, his father said. “It didn’t matter where he hit them, it was about having fun.”
Abney said his son got more serious about the game as he got older, and took lessons from John Howell, a former golf professional at the Country Club of Jackson.
Abney said Howell, now an assistant golf coach at Alabama, earns some of the credit, for helping mold Simms into the player he is today.
“Much has been said about the group of guys that have come out of Jackson in the last four or five years, and (Simms) is the youngest of that group,” he said. “John Howell made it fun for them, but he also made them accountable for what they were doing.”
That group of golf phenoms includes Jack Gnam, a 2018 Jackson Academy graduate who is now playing at Ole Miss, Griffin Agent, a 2016 Madison-Ridgeland Academy graduate now playing at Mississippi State University, Charlie Miller and Cecil Wegener, 2017 Prep graduates who are now on the golf team at Ole Miss, and Wilson Furr, a Jackson Academy graduate now in his second year at Alabama.
Last year, Alabama was runner up in the NCAA Division One Men’s Golf Championship.
Simms, who is the only one from that group that has yet to graduate high school, said playing with those guys also helped sharpen his game.
“We were all trying to chase Wilson and beat each other,” he said. “The pressure’s off now because they’re not here, so I’m competing with myself.”
Now, Simms has taken on the leadership mantle, helping to bring up the next generation of golfers.
“He’s done all this on his own,” Luke Abney said. “He’s such a great kid. What he does for his brother, being there for him, his deal with the Children’s Hospital ... Alison and I are both proud of what he’s accomplished.”
Even with big things on the horizon, Simms is looking forward to enjoying his senior year.
He still practices daily and will continue to do so. But in his spare time, he likes hanging out with friends and listening to music. The self-prescribed “old soul” prefers music from the 1980s and 90s.
He’s also still getting used to cheering on the Crimson Tide.
Prior to committing to the school, Simms had been a lifelong Rebel.
“My parents went to Ole Miss and we have a place in Oxford,” he said. “But it’s alright.”