Optimist International - 2011
Medalist - Ponte Vedra Back to School
Top Five - Southern Junior, Optimist Junior
Top 10 - Western Junior, AJGA - The Junior Players
Medalist - Ponte Vedra Back
to School, Optimist Junior
Runner-up - FL State High School Championship
Top Five - AJGA - Huntsville
A rising senior, AJ was participating in
defending his title at the Optimist
International when we caught up with him
at PGA National in August.
Have you always lived in Florida?
Yes sir I have.
Does your family play golf?
My Dad plays weekends at our club and is a pretty good player and my younger sister is starting to play.
How did you pick it up?
My Dad just took me out there starting when I was about five years old. We'd go in the afternoon and I'd hit these little clubs.I'm the oldest of five so there were lots of young babies around so sometimes I liked to go with with Dad just to get away from all the chaos and just go play golf.
So you have won this event the last two years? That's a reputation to live up to. What did you shoot today (second round).
I shot 73. I'm a little golfed out right now. I had a US AM qualifier the other day and the heat is really getting to me. I also played in the Southern and Western Junior, two top tens. I have been playing pretty well. In the US AM qualifier I shot 74-64 and lost in a playoff. I shot six under and did not make it. I'm a little emotionally drained from that so itís been a tough week and so I'm trying to get back in gear.
Have you ever played in the US Junior?
Yes sir I have. I played two years ago at Trump National. I had never played in any AJGA's and this was my first really big tournament. It was a cool experience. It poured the second day. It was a monsoon. The first hole was an uphill 515 yard par four and it was wet and raining. Hardest opening hole I have ever played.
What other sports do you play? You look like a baseball player.
Yes I did play baseball but even though you can play golf year round here in Florida, I take the winter off and play basketball. It's a lot of fun. I play on our high school team and playing basketball is a way to get away from golf. I need the break. I'm actually a basketball player who just happens to play golf. After basketball season is over, I will take a month and then start to get back into the swing of things.
Is it true that helps you get freshened up for golf?
Oh definitely, you get that spark back, you wanna go play. Right now I'm about done. I have very little left in the tank from a long spring and summer. But I do play for my high school team and we have a fall season. We're going to be good as we have all five players returning.
When we talk about the sport of golf what do you like about it
Trying to see how well you can play. Go out there every single shot and try to hit it the best you can and when you hit a bad shot, see if you can make up for it. Even at the US AM qualifier, after the first day everyone thought I was out of it and trying to come back and almost making it, thatís what I really like. .
What things you like to do away from the course?
Lots of sports. I love football, going to the beach.
What about school subjects. Which ones do you like?
I like math, Iím pretty good at it. And Iím working hard on my Spanish. I think itís cool to be fluent in two languages. Iím almost there but I need to work on it some more.
If we talk to people who know you and we asked them to give us some adjectives that describe you, what would we hear?
Probably ďathleticĒ. Maybe ďcockyĒ but I joke about that. Also ďnon-chalant, laid backĒ. I like to have fun.
When you drive, would people say you drive very fast, fast, or a little fast?
Maybe a little fast but Iím a good driver. I donít go crazy. If I get a speeding ticket my Dad will take my car away for a while.
If we talk about the various aspects of your game, whatís the strongest part?
Iím a pretty good putter. From 50 to 100 yards I still need to get better. If I have to punch out from the trees and then get up and down for par from , say , 60 yards, I canít do that right now as well as I should.
Are you a feel player?
Absolutely, 100 percent. I can have five different putting stances in a round. I just go with what I think feels right.
How about you practice routine away from a tournament?
I do putting drills and games but I need to come up with some wedge games. Like anybody else I tend to practice what I am good at and so I donít practice my wedge game like I should. But when it gets to tournament time I just go play.
You have some more junior golf left, pick a tournament you would like to win.
Oh the Junior Players without a doubt right here in my hometown. Then the high school state championship would be next both individually and as a team.
You looking forward to Florida and college?
Oh yes, Coach Alexander knows what he is doing and will make me a lot better.
You want to stay all four years?
Oh yes. I want a degree especially in international business where my Spanish will help. If I were to win some pro tournaments as a amateur, that might change but (laughing) that doesnít happen to too many people.
I think we covered a lot of ground today. Thanks for the interview A.J.
Thank you Mac, this was fun.