Bullock signs to golf for Arkansas-Fort Smith

Mikey Bullock, seated, signed to play golf for the University of Arkansas-Fort Smith on Thursday at the Harlingen Country Club. By Claire Cruz/Valley Morning Star

Loyalty is a defining characteristic of Harlingen native Mikey Bullock, and it was a driving factor behind one of the biggest decisions of his life.

Bullock signed to play golf for the University of Arkansas-Fort Smith on Thursday at Harlingen Country Club, making a claim first spoken by Lions coach Daniel Hayden back in 2012 come true. Bullock will be competing in the Lone Star Conference at the NCAA Division II level.

“It’s crazy, I’ve been waiting for this and it just feels like it was a long time coming,” Bullock said. “I knew I was going to be taken care of the best (at Fort Smith) and I would be treated like family at this college. (Hayden’s) just literally been there for me for so long. It’s a pretty good relationship so far, a pretty joking relationship. The home course is absolutely beautiful and in great condition. The campus itself is beautiful, strong academics and a very good nursing school.”

Hayden and Bullock first met while Hayden was the men’s and women’s golf coach for the University of Texas at Brownsville. Hayden and Wendy Werley Bullock, Bullock’s mom, met at Rancho Viejo Country Club, where she was a golf professional and worked with some of his college athletes and had him teach in some of her classes.

Werley Bullock said her son and his future coach developed a relationship that goes beyond golf over the years. Forty coaches from schools across the country follow Bullock on the Next College Student Athlete website to track his results, but Hayden’s commitment to supporting and encouraging Bullock made the difference.

“I’ll never forget the day (Hayden) looked at Mikey and said, ‘Someday you’re going to play for me,’” Werley Bullock said. “Mikey was so little, he just didn’t even know what he was saying. He had a lot of different opportunities, but at the end of the day my son is very loyal. The people that are around him mean so much to him, and he formed such a strong bond with (Hayden). At one point he wanted to play Division I, that’s what everyone sort of aspires to, but he was, like, ‘This guy cares so much about me, it doesn’t matter the division.’”

Bullock credited his mom for teaching him to love golf. Because of his mother, Bullock has been wielding a club since he was 2 years old. He began practicing and competing more seriously at the age of 12 and has dreamed of being a collegiate golfer since the ninth grade.

“She’s really been my only coach, and she’s showed me everything. She’s made me the player I am today, even though I was a bit of trouble for a while,” Bullock said. “It took me a long time to get it together, but she’s been there for me the entire time. She’s literally my everything.”

Bullock played briefly for Harlingen High, but has been playing independently with Werley Bullock as his coach through most of his career. He attended the Harlingen School of Health Professions for the first two years of high school, which has him considering a career in the medical field, but he has since been home-schooled.

Bullock thanked a variety of coaches, friends and mentors for helping him reach this milestone, but he gave special credit to strength trainer Adrian Cavazos of Fourth Quarter Athletic Training Center for aiding his development in the last two and a half years.

Cavazos said Bullock has put on around 20 pounds of muscle in their time together, but he does more than help him strength train. Cavazos said his focus is on understanding what makes an athlete tick, and he’s proud of Bullock’s progress and the relationship they’ve formed that helped Bullock become his first athlete to sign an athletic scholarship.

“It takes a village to raise an athlete, and I’m very fortunate to be a part of his village,” Cavazos said. “He’s really grown into a good young man. I knew from a long time ago that (college golf) was the goal, and I just tried to prepare him for the next level. It’s getting to know the athlete, and building a relationship with them and understanding your athlete, knowing when to push them.”

As Bullock looks ahead to living out his dream, he said facing top-tier competition is what he’s most looking forward to as a college athlete.

“I think it’s a whole new level, and I’m very excited to be able to play on that level. I’ve been dreaming about it since ninth grade, so I’m really excited,” Bullock said.