Sundays at the Tomlinson household have had a very specific routine for the past 15 years.
John David, his wife Tammy, and their two children, daughter Taylor and son J.D., hit the links every week in a familial ritual of bonding and friendly competition. Sometimes it was for control of the TV remote, sometimes for the privilege of picking dinner.
“Truthfully, it was agonizing at times,” John David said, remembering the early years of the tradition. Taylor was just five years old when the family started their weekly games.
“Playing in the sand traps, ‘Come on, Taylor,’” John David said. “She’d be looking in the streams for frogs.”
“She would catch butterflies and do cartwheels on the fairway, but it gradually grew into a force of golf,” Tammy said.
Whatever the prize may be for the week, you can catch the Tomlinsons pairing up and taking on the other half of their family. J.D. and Tammy versus Taylor and John David, winner take all.
“We’re a very competitive family,” Tammy said.
Golf is just the tip of the iceberg. J.D. and Taylor have competed against each other practically from birth. Whether it’s ping pong, tennis, pool or darts, the Tomlinson siblings are more than willing to square up against each other.
Basketball may be the main competition between the two outside of golf.
The two attended Oak Hall High School in Gainesville. From 2008 to 2011, J.D. played on the varsity basketball squad, putting up 17.3 points per game while shooting 41 percent from the field and 38 percent from beyond the arc. After graduating, the shooting guard left the program as the school’s all-time leading scorer.
Not to be outdone, Taylor lettered in varsity basketball all four years. She played point guard and shooting guard and averaged 10.5 points per game while shooting 30 percent from three-point range and earning first-team All-Area honors multiple years.
However, the numbers may be a little misleading.
“I remember when she was a freshman and J.D. was a junior,” John David said, recalling his children’s time at Oak Hall. “He was the No. 1 three-point shooter in the state and they had a holiday basketball tournament at Oak Hall. She won the three-point contest with the boys and the girls. I think that was kind of the point where it was an awakening that she is good and she deserved respect.”
There was never any ill-will towards one another, Taylor remembered.
“We were always really happy for each other’s successes,” Taylor said. “It more so just pushed us to keep striving for more. We’d always kind of egg at each other about how many points we made each game and stuff like that.”
Taylor paused, then smirked.
“He’s always been a touch better at it than me, but I’m slowly catching up to him,” she said.
When it came time for Taylor to decide where to attend college, there wasn’t too much hesitation. Taylor took official visits to Clemson and Miami, but her thoughts never wavered far from home. After all, being born and raised in Gainesville breeds a certain mindset within an athlete.
Even her parents had reservations about their baby girl moving far away.
“I always wanted her to go to Florida,” John David said. “But we never put any pressure on her to go to Florida. As parents, we just want her to be close. But we felt she should go through the process.”
“I’m a little more independent than my brother,” Taylor said.
J.D. never took an official visit outside of Gainesville and signed with the Gators as soon as he got the chance. What little hesitation that Taylor did have quickly dissipated with her official visits.
“I don’t think I knew it until I did take those trips how much I wanted to be a Gator,” Taylor said. “I really liked Clemson, but trying to picture myself in purple and orange instead of orange and blue, it was tough.”
Taylor ended up being the lone signee of coach Emily Glaser’s second recruiting class. If not for the transfer of then-sophomore Kelly Grassel from Glaser’s alma mater Michigan State, Taylor would have ended up being the lone American on Glaser’s team.
“We are very excited to welcome Taylor to the Gator family,” Glaser said in a release upon Taylor signing her letter of intent on Nov. 15, 2013. “Taylor is very athletic and physically talented, but also has a good golf mind.”
That ‘good golf mind’ has been a theme that Glaser has repeated throughout Taylor’s career.
After the SunTrust Gator Invitational in March, where Taylor tied for ninth among all golfers while helping her team capture its seventh Gator Invitational win in 11 years, Glaser again professed her appreciation for Taylor’s mental game and her willingness to ask for help.
“She likes for me to kind of line her up occasionally just to make sure that she’s doing it properly,” Glaser said. “If we do that every few holes or so, it kind of gives her peace of mind.”
During that same tournament, Taylor could be seen lining up her shot, taking a few practice swings, then stepping back to readjust her angle. However, Taylor’s admitted perfectionism was not the cause of this. Not this time.
“I was actually telling my dad that during the back nine (of round two), my stomach kept growling when I stepped up to it,” Taylor said after the match. After recalling the incident months later, Taylor laughed it off.
“It was a long day,” Taylor said. “It was 36 holes. Normally, I eat enough to where it doesn’t affect me at all.”
Mr. and Mrs. Tomlinson also reflected on the incident with chuckles.
“Do I have a bar in my purse?” Tammy remembered asking herself. “Or a banana?”
Stomach-growling aside, Taylor takes pride in her approach to the mental game.
“I’m pretty meticulous on the golf course,” Taylor said. “I’ve developed really good course management, and I think that’s what (Glaser) saw in me. Knowing, if you’re not hitting it well, where to miss it.”
Taylor’s parents see that mindset too. The seemingly happy-go-lucky attitude of Taylor is underscored by intense focus on her tasks at hand.
“She’s a perfectionist. She really agonizes over everything,” John David said. “If she has a fault, she’s really hard on herself. Sometimes I hate to see her beat herself up over a lot of stuff, but that’s just the way she is.”
While her shyness may throw some people off the scent, Taylor is not some golf robot that lives on the green. The joking side of her is not usually on display, but rather is expressed through her interactions with her teammates and coaches. In this year’s NCAA Championships, Taylor could be seen with Grassel and Karolina Vlckova on a video uploaded to Vlckova’s Twitter account singing a Backstreet Boys parody lamenting the rained-out conditions of day two of the competition.
“I’m really bad at singing, but I’m not afraid to,” Taylor said. “It kind of suits me.”
Taylor’s go-to karaoke jam is indeed the Backstreet Boys classic ‘I Want It That Way.' She said that she gets hyped up for matches with it. Taylor occasionally switches it up from country and pop to rap for when she “really wants to grind.”
Aside from musical shenanigans, Taylor said that her humor has been amplified by being a part of the team.
After getting lost in the woods at the Clemson Invitational last year, she said the team is convinced they saw Sasquatch. She loves watching Zoolander and Talladega Nights.
This goes without mentioning the three-year April Fools’ Day feud with coach Glaser. The first year Taylor was with the team, she texted Glaser saying that she sprained her ankle during a dance class the day before leaving for a tournament, just after Grassel had broken her elbow.
“She was a little frustrated with that,” Taylor said, grinning. “She’s always looking out for it now, so I haven’t been able to get her as good.”
That didn’t stop Taylor from trying again this year. At dinner, Taylor put “a bunch” of salt in Glaser’s drinking water.
“I guess I didn’t put enough salt in because she went through the whole dinner drinking the water and not realizing it,” Taylor said. “And then she pretended afterwards that she was allergic to salt and April Fools’d me."
The competitive nature of the Tomlinson family may not be confined to the golf course, but that is the holy ground on which they all congregate. Tammy currently holds the record in the family of the most hole-in-ones with four. J.D. got his first a few months ago.
“I’m the only one that doesn’t have a hole-in-one now,” Taylor said. Her parents said she’s disappointed in that fact, though Taylor doesn’t show it. Her perpetual smile betrays no lamentation or dwelling on that negative or any at all.
“Life is really good, so it’s hard to complain about a lot,” Taylor said.
Her parents recall Taylor spending time with a neighborhood girl after cutting a practice short just to watch her play a few holes. Her generosity, her parents say, is her best quality.
“I don’t really think our most proud moments are the sports ones so much,” Tammy said. “I’m more proud of just who she is and the way she treats her teammates. She’s very conscious about trying to help everybody.”
“She’s very aware,” John David said. “She’s a triple-threat: She’s smart, she’s talented and she’s hard-working. And when she leaves UF, she’ll be really successful at something. It’s just a matter of what she chooses to be really successful at.”
Taylor has expressed an interest in turning pro and joining the LPGA tour after she graduates. In the meantime, however, Taylor seems perfectly happy with where she is.
“I have a really good support system at home,” Taylor said.
With everything going on in Taylor’s life though, there will still be Sunday afternoons on the links with her family.
“You can do anything you want,” John David remembers telling his children, “but we always told them ‘You have to keep Sunday afternoon for family golf.’”
At the church of Tomlinson, they worship on the green and they repent in the sand traps. Bowing their heads can be substituted for cartwheels on the fairway.
They pray for that first hole-in-one, and blessings are counted with every caught butterfly or frog.
Contact Morgan McMullen at email@example.com and follow him on Twitter @MorganMcMuffin.
Senior Taylor Tomlinson led UF women's golf with an even par performance in the second round of the National Championship in Stillwater, Oklahoma. However, UF dropped three places to 13th and shot 15 over for the round.