Making the Turn: Jackson Van Paris is cementing his legacy on West End

In his third year at Vanderbilt, Jackson Van Paris has become a star for the men’s golf team.
Jackson Van Paris posing with a trophy and swinging a driver. (Hustler Multimedia/Lexie Perez)
Jackson Van Paris posing with a trophy and swinging a driver. (Hustler Multimedia/Lexie Perez)
Lexie Perez

Golf can often be a tale of two nines. A golfer might struggle on the first nine holes and then proceed to shoot a record score on the back nine. Golf is a fickle game in this sense. You can go from throwing your clubs to giving a Tiger Woods-esque fist pump in a matter of minutes. In those tough, gritty rounds, the back nine is when a player can hit their stride. All it takes is one good shot to turn a mediocre round of golf into a great performance. 

For Jackson Van Paris, a junior on the Vanderbilt Men’s Golf team, the first half of his college golf career didn’t quite go as planned. Van Paris sat as the sixth man on Vanderbilt’s roster for two seasons, never playing in the postseason and occasionally competing as an individual in regular season events. For the most part, he was cheering from beyond the green at tournaments. Now, with two years of college left, Van Paris has cemented himself in the starting lineup. In a sense, the front nine to his collegiate career might have required patience, but his back nine is just beginning, and he already seems to be taking advantage of it. 

Van Paris won his first college event at the St. Andrews Collegiate this fall, winning the individual portion while also helping Vanderbilt secure the team title over No. 1 North Carolina. Over two rounds at the Home of Golf, Van Paris shot 64 and 67 to win by three strokes. It seemed Van Paris’s time had come, and he was ready to make a splash on the college golf scene. 

“To play at St. Andrews was just incredible. It was my first time over there and I was starstruck walking around the property for the first time,” Van Paris told The Hustler. “[It was great] to win there and I got fortunate enough to have a hot putter that week. I had some things go my way and to get a win there was really cool.”

Van Paris isn’t new to the spotlight. As a young kid, he dominated the junior golf scene, winning back-to-back AJGA Simplify Boys Invitational titles and earning all-state selection four times in high school. At the age of 12, Van Paris moved from the busy streets of Chicago, Ill. to the small town of Pinehurst, N.C. Pinehurst is known for its world-renowned golf courses, and this golf-dominated environment shaped Van Paris into the player he is today. 

“It was definitely different than I think a lot of guys growing up with golf. Obviously in Pinehurst, it’s golf all the time. That’s the main draw to the town,” Van Paris said. “I’m really proud and I feel lucky to have grown up in such a golf-rich environment and be able to call that home.”

At just 14, Van Paris broke out onto the national stage. He became the second-youngest player to ever win a match in the U.S. Amateur. The only player younger than him was none other than golf legend Bobby Jones, who won a match at 1906 U.S. Amateur at the age of 14 years and five months. It’s safe to say Van Paris was in some elite company at a young age. 

Due to his success in junior golf, he was heavily recruited in high school as the seventh-ranked player in his class according to Golfweek and a four-time Rolex Junior All-American. Van Paris ultimately decided to continue his golf career at Vanderbilt due to the program’s history and head coach Scott Limbaugh’s leadership.

“The two things I always tell people [on why I committed] are coach Limbaugh and, at the time, assistant coach Gator Todd. I think coach Limbaugh is the best coach in the country,” Van Paris said. “The city and education was huge for me. [I wanted] to be able to come to Vanderbilt and get an amazing education as well as be on a top ranked golf team.”

Expectations were high for Van Paris when he arrived on West End. He was eager to make an immediate impact on Limbaugh’s team.

However, Vanderbilt’s roster was full of veteran leadership and experience so there just wasn’t room to include a young, unproven player. But now looking back on it, Van Paris understands that those two years of development on the bench were critical to his current success. 

“[In] my freshman and sophomore years, I learned so much about myself and my game. I learned more in those two years than I have in my entire life,” Van Paris said. “When I got to school, I was very much a kid. I’d say immaturity kind of really caught up to me that first semester so that really slowed down my transition and didn’t let me play as well as I could have.”

Patience can often be a difficult virtue to live by, but Van Paris is now reaping the rewards of his perseverance. In an era where transferring has become commonplace, Van Paris remained dedicated to Vanderbilt even when he was the Commodores’ sixth man. 

He believes the bonds he built with the team are what kept him driven and determined to make the starting lineup.

“They [the golf team] are my nine best friends. I’m really lucky to be on a team with guys that I really like and I really enjoy spending time around,” Van Paris said. “We are incredibly close. We do everything together. We get dinner together. We obviously play golf together.”

Now, Van Paris is a key contributor to this Vanderbilt roster, starting in every tournament this season. After an extremely successful summer, in which he won the Sunnehanna Amateur, one of amateur golf’s most prestigious tournaments, he brought his best golf into the fall season. 

“I’d say definitely this past summer was a huge momentum boost for me too. I played really well this summer and that kind of helped me carry some confidence into this fall,” Van Paris said. 

He has notched three top-10 finishes this season so far, and he looks to continue this success as Vanderbilt gets closer to postseason play. While Van Paris has shown why he is individually one of the best players in the country, he is more focused on getting the Commodores their first national championship in program history. 

“I think our spring schedule this semester is a little tougher than the past which is really good for us,” Van Paris said. “We feel like we’re as good as any team in the country, and we love being able to compete against the best teams.”

Van Paris has proven himself to be a starter for Vanderbilt Men’s Golf through his hard work and perseverance. His start to his career on West End might have required persistence, but Van Paris is ready to leave his mark at Vanderbilt and push his team to new heights.

The back nine of his collegiate career is just beginning and it seems he is ready to shoot a record score. 

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About the Contributors
Henry Oelhafen
Henry Oelhafen, Deputy Sports Editor
Henry Oelhafen (‘26) is a student in Peabody College majoring in human and organizational development and minoring in business. Henry grew up as a Vanderbilt sports fan and loves to talk about both professional and amateur golf. In addition to writing, he loves to play golf with friends, hike and try new restaurants. He can be reached at [email protected].
Lexie Perez
Lexie Perez, Graphics Editor
Lexie Perez (‘26) is from Northern Virginia and is majoring in climate studies and human and organizational development and minoring in business in the College of Arts and Science. She enjoys listening to 70s and 80s pop music, doing the daily Wordle and rooting for the Nashville Predators and Cincinnati Bengals. She can be reached at [email protected].
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