Junior diary: What’s better than junior golf?

Editor’s note: Patrick Rodgers, 17, will file a diary each week this summer as he plays some of the premier junior events in the country.

My name is Patrick Rodgers. I am 17 years old, from Avon, Ind., and a junior at Avon High School. In the past few years, I have entered the junior golf scene – and what an experience it has been. From weekly competition during the summer to college recruiting, even battling the cold Indiana winters, it has been an experience that I wouldn’t trade for anything.

I hear all the time of some junior golfers getting burnt-out or saying they need a break, but for me, I can’t get enough. I love to practice and push myself to my full potential. I thrive on competing with the best junior golfers in the world, and I hate to lose.

I really didn’t start my athletic career as a golfer, as basketball was a huge part of my life growing up. It kind of had to be. After all, I do live in Indiana. I loved basketball, and was sure I was going to be the next Reggie Miller. Unfortunately, I am not 6’7’’ so that plan didn’t quite pan out. But as soon as I started to play golf, I loved it and knew that it was the sport for me. Since I was nine years old, I have worked as hard as I could to get better, and really developed an appreciation for the game.

My first big junior golf experience came at the 2008 U.S. Junior Amateur when I just turned 16. I really didn’t know what the event meant when I had qualified for it, I just kept hearing that some good players were going to be there. I arrived at Shoal Creek in Birmingham, Ala., and my eyes were opened to junior golf. I was playing with the kids that I had read about in magazines and seen on the internet, and was playing a golf course from over 7,100 yards while only hitting my tee ball about 235 yards.

There were over 100 college coaches from the best schools in the country who would stand behind me on the range and just watch. I still didn’t realize the importance of the event and just focused on my game. As the week went on, I began to realize that I could compete with the best. My tournament ended in the second round of match play in a 22-hole thriller. Despite the disappointing loss, I realized how much I loved the competition and playing in big events. It motivated me to work harder.

Since then I have improved my game and played well in some big events. I have also worked hard in school to give myself some excellent opportunities both with golf and academics. The college recruiting has been stressful to say the least, but I have really enjoyed the process. I have visited a few more schools than most kids my age, and feel like I have seen just about every school in the nation – from Texas, USC, Notre Dame, Illinois, Wake Forest, IU, Purdue, Duke, Oklahoma State, Texas A&M and UCLA – you name it and I have been there.

I have realized that in college golf there are a lot of great coaches, schools, facilities and programs, and the college decision comes down to small things. After many miles traveled and many weekends spent on college campuses, I am still considering Stanford and Georgia Tech. Coach Ray at Stanford and Coach Heppler at Georgia Tech are not only great coaches but wonderful people. The schools are very different, but I love both of them and it is very difficult to decide between the two.

Currently I am in the middle of high school golf in Indiana. The competition is very different from some of the big events in junior golf, but I really enjoy playing with my teammates and sharing successes with them. Coming off our school’s first state championship in its history (in any sport) last year, we have a lot to prove this year but we are off to a good start as we are undefeated.

I hope you enjoy learning about my junior golf experience and I look forward to writing every week.

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