Sunday, July 06, 2008

Houston Area Overflowing with Young Talent

Stacy Lewis posted a Top 10 finish at the U.S. Women's Open last, her first tournament as a professional golfer. Lewis, from The Woodlands, is the latest golf phenom from the Houston area to turn pro and make a splash. But she won't be the last. She's merely the vanguard of a coming wave of great young golfers from the Houston area.

The Houston Chronicle takes a closer look at the pipeline of talent emerging from the area in an article headlined, "Houston area becoming a hotbed for young golf talent."

Memorial High School junior Cory Whitsett won the 2007 U.S. Junior Amateur at 15 and hasn't slowed down, grabbing the 2008 UIL Class 5A individual state title.

Lisa McCloskey, 17, who recently graduated a year early from Montgomery High School, is headed to Pepperdine on a golf scholarship after winning the Class 4A state individual title two years in a row and placing third in the Doug Sanders Junior-Celebrity Golf Tournament last weekend.

"When I was playing youth golf in Houston, the competition was really good," said Lewis, who in May completed a collegiate career in which she was a four-time All-American and the 2007 NCAA individual champion at Arkansas. "I might have been the first to do some big things, but I know there are a lot more golfers from that area that will be in national headlines, too."

Texas sophomore and former Elkins golfer Lance Lopez said the competition was starting to get thick when he was in high school. Lopez won the individual 5A title in 2004, and Elkins won the team title in 2003.

"Playing in regionals and district and just local tournaments in Houston at that time, you were seeing great players all around you," Lopez said. "Houston is producing some great golfers, despite the fact that it isn't really known for its golf the way other areas are."

Lopez picked up his first golf club when he was 2 years old and started playing competitively at 5. He said the biggest accomplishment for him and other golfers of his generation is not burning out.

"It's a mentally draining sport, and you have to give up a lot to be good," Lopez said. "So young players that make it big can be rare, because so many don't work as hard as you need to."

From Klein Oak there's Shannon Fish, now at UT; from The Woodlands there is Lauren Johnson, Bronson Burgoon and Brandon Burgoon, all at A&M, plus Ashley Knoll, already graduate from A&M and now on the Futures Tour, and Stephanie Page, who also played for A&M.

Ben Thorseth of Strake Jesuit is headed to Rice after winning the Greater Houston City Junior Championship and the Texas/Oklahoma Junior Championship.

"I really love seeing national rankings and seeing names from Texas and, even better, from Houston," Thorseth said. "I think the golfers here are just as good as California or Florida, and we are showing that right now."

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