CEDARVILLE — Philip White landed a spot on Steve Harvey’s nationally syndicated talk show just for being able to play with a yo-yo.
Well, maybe “playing” isn’t the right word.
The Cedarville University junior is a three-time defending national champion yo-yoer and was invited to the show to compete in the fairly new segment “Battle Me on Steve.” He competed against two other champs Jan. 16 with the winner decided by the audience. Each had about 30 seconds to show off what they could do.
The-20-year-old from New York — who performs his tricks with the string detached from the yo-yo — was the crowd’s favorite and came back to Greene County with a motorized commuter scooter as a prize.
“It was pretty cool,” White said. “I was nervous, but it really didn’t affect how I was yo-yoing much. Some of the nerves were taken away because it isn’t a live show.”
The show paid for White’s flight to Los Angeles and hotel room Jan. 10, with the show scheduled for taping the next day. They rehearsed — without Harvey present — for about 45 minutes and then recorded the show later.
“He seemed pretty cool as far as I could tell,” White said of meeting Harvey. “It was fun. We got to walk around L.A.”
White, who is studying computer science, began messing around with the yo-yo in 2010 when he received one for a gift. He was able to master a few of the tricks on the DVD tutorial and then discovered a YouTube video featuring yo-yo master André Boulay.
“Some of them were way out of my league,” White said. “That kind of drove me to keep going.”
White entered his first competition in late 2011. He entered two divisions and finished second to last in one, and third to last in the other. Two years later he won the Massachusetts state title. He was one of three who had a legitimate chance at the state championship.
“It felt really good to win the first one,” White said.
He won his first national title in 2015 in the offstring division and followed that up with two more.
“I really didn’t know what to think at first,” White said. “It takes you by surprise.”
White plans on defending his national title this summer. And as he showed on “Steve,” it’s not easy to get the yo-yo to fly around and catch it on the string and complete various maneuvers.
“You have to do a lot of the work to make it wrap around,” White said.