A WALK WITH A HAWK ... FEATURING: KIJONTRAY MCCLAY
McClay aspires to become a Class A PGA Certified Instructor
McClay aspires to become a Class A PGA Certified Instructor

Feb. 9, 2012

PRINCESS ANNE, Md. – There is a phrase that can be found on a whiteboard inside of the W.P. Hytche Center that embodies the meaning of dedication. It’s a statement that can be read from the eyes of those working out at any time of the day; one that Head Strength and Conditioning Coordinator, Art Johnstone, prefers his student-athletes to follow by.

 “Hard work beats talent, when talent doesn’t work hard”

For UMES sophomore golfer, Kijontray McClay, it’s a quote that he has learned to live by.

“K.J.” has had to work hard for everything he has done in his life. The San Diego, Calif., native is the only person amongst seven siblings to attend college and has had to go the extra mile to receive his just due on the golf course. Furthermore, he is the only person in his entire family to attend a four-year institution.

“He is one of those kids that despite the odds has the audacity to walk to the beat of his own drum,” said Head Golf Coach Jamila Johnson. “Whether it is his background, ethnicity, or even the fact that he’s from the other side of the country, the sacrifices he’s made to pursue a non-traditional career is to be admired.”

McClay is not just any student-athlete either, as he graduated from Abraham Lincoln High School with six different scholarships and academic distinctions. His distinctions were furthered by being nominated for a National Fine Arts Award. He already has plans of attending the University of California – Los Angeles for graduate school, where he wants to become involved in UCLA’s Theatrical Program.

On the golf course, K.J. has been building his experiences since he was three-years old. He’s had to fight for his position on the golf course. It’s been a battle from several different standpoints, but McClay has continued to fight for what he believes.

“Since I was a child, golf was not something that African-Americans played,” said McClay. “Growing up, and still to this day, I have defended what most don’t consider being a sport. In almost every junior golf tournament that I played in, I was one of a select few African-Americans that played in the event.”

McClay’s story of coming to UMES begins when he connected with Johnson after she did a presentation in Georgia several years ago. He was in the southeast for a tournament and found interest in the Hawks’ program.

Johnson knew that McClay would be a good fit for her program. The present showcases this understanding, where the Hawks benefit from his ability to advocate camaraderie and from his hard work.

“When it comes to conditioning, he is a standout,” offered Johnson. “He is an asset with team physical development. He’s always the last one to leave, staying after to work. He goes above the required workouts.”

Upon his arrival to Princess Anne, it was the first time he had ever seen UMES’ campus. He knew this was the place for him, because it offered the PGA Golf Management Program and was a Historically Black College.

It was the ideal situation for him; one that offered the best of both worlds.

This past fall, McClay provided impressive results in several tournaments for the Hawks. He began the year by placing 42nd overall at the Black College Invitational Golf Championship in Atlanta, Ga., where he shot a plus-21 to finish fourth overall for the team.  He continued the fall by placing in 62nd place (248) at the beginning of October at the Donald Ross Invitational, before ending up fourth on the team, 40th overall (171), at the Savannah State University Fall Invitational.

UMES and Hawk athletics can benefit from people like McClay in our everyday lives. His stories shows the reader how “hard work beats talent when talent doesn’t work”. His journey to UMES is surely unique, but it’s an experience that everyone within Hawk athletics is glad to have experienced.

“I think this spring, he has the ability to demonstrate the maturity that he has been featuring over the past several years,” said Johnson. “I think it will transcend into a successful year on the golf course.”

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