Tell me about what it was like to get to the end of your high school and start thinking about moving up the ladder a little bit, because it's pretty evident so far that, a, parents don't have to-- you played all kinds of sports. You didn't have to focus just on golf. Pretty clear that you were good, but not some prodigy, right?
You're still a work in progress, right?
Trying to sort of understand for other people to listen to the stories and the work that goes in and maybe what they did or did not do from parents and so on. There's always a way, right? Every tour player has a story of how they got to where they are today.
Well said. Well said.
So of course, Lamar is where you went to college. And we were big competitors out--
There are a lot of your friends--
Oh, yeah. The Cougars and Cardinals, man.
Yeah. They were number one in the-- we'll get to that. But tell me about what that experience-- that step from high school when you're thinking about and doing all that.
I think that was-- that's probably the most important question for me to always answer and give people a good insight as to how did I go from a good local player developing his skills and getting to-- I actually had one of the-- I'd say probably one of the best high school golf teams in the state. We had an incredible coach. I mean, we had access to all these great courses to play locally. And then we would go to all these really, really great tournaments during high school.
So I was developing some great skills as a tournament player. I had some great success in high school. My freshman year I won district championship, player of the year, all these kind of things. And I'm developing-- like I said, I played STPGA local tournaments when I was in middle school. And then in high school I continued that. But my dad and mom both learned that I needed to develop and get better and--
See some different guys, right?
Yeah. And the root of all that is I kept saying, I want to get better. They never pushed me. I think that's a huge deal.
Like I have two girls now and one of them's in gymnastics. And we're not pushing her. It's up to her. And that's a big deal for me.
And I think anybody that makes it to a professional level, at the end of the day, if they don't want it, they're not going to make it. They have to want it bad. And I really wanted it bad.
So they said, all right. Let's go to HGA. Let's try that. My dad spent the money and we had to go through this qualifying process for the HGA. And I get through and I show up.
And I remember I was playing the first few tournaments going, holy cow. These kids are good. And I think I was 11 or 12 and I played my first HGA.
Went from the country to the city, essentially.
That's right. I went from a little local town to maybe four or five really good players and then a bunch of guys that are kind of beginners. And now I've got a lot of country club players.
Here in Houston, where we are today--
And kids, they've got lessons. They've got pretty swings. They've got great equipment. I'm going, whoa.
So now two or three years later, as I'm still playing other sports, I'm playing HGA, I'm competing against really good Houston-- I mean, Houston is obviously a big city. Lot of good players with a lot of access to great courses. Then the funny thing is the next couple of summers I play and I finally start winning a couple tournaments over here. And I go back to local at the same time. And now I'm winning those tournaments pretty easily. So I'm learning-- I had a good balance of, OK, I can show up and be a stud at these courses.
Moving up the ladder, so to speak.
That's right. So I'm starting to move up and develop. And then the same thing happened middle of high school. I play in a couple of high school tournaments. I'm seeing these seniors. And I'm like, man, these kids are really good.
And I see these tags, AJGA. So I start asking questions. Dad, we need to play in some of these. I want to get better. And again, it's me coming saying, I want to get better.
So they did some research before Google search engine and all these things happened. We found out the AJGA is the next step. So we start trying to find some locations. And there are some in Houston, some Dallas, local, New Orleans, we could we could drive to, because we didn't have a lot of money to get to places.
So we show up to some of these AJGA events. And I was very fortunate. My first AJGA tournament was in Houston at the north course, which I think is called Panther Trail in the Woodlands.
I finished second in my very first one. And it qualified me to become like this temporary member for a year. So I got access.
You got to play all of them.
Because usually go through the qualifying first.
I got really lucky in that, because I was so nervous and I was ready. But I show up and I'm like, OK, I can play at this level. But man, these kids are really good. Not only are they-- they're older and bigger and stronger and they hit it straight, they have all this-- but you can tell these guys are true golfers.
So now I've got three levels of golf I'm playing--
At least in your mind. You still smoked them, but--
Well, in my mind, I'm seeing-- I'm seeing, OK, I can play at this level. But man, I've got to get a lot better. And so at the-- all this is going on, playing three different levels of golf, being able to go back and dominate and shoot low scores and then-- and get some nice confidence from that, but play the HGA. Now I'm developing. I'm seeing, OK, maybe I'm becoming one of the elite players of HGA.
Now I'm playing the AJGA, where you've got all the studs around the country, and some around the world that are coming from Asia and Europe to play as juniors. And that's where I saw the big names and the Hunter Mahans and the Bill Haas and the Matt Rosenfelds and the James Vargas and all these incredible great names that I've seen in Golf Week magazine for years.
That went on eventually to come on the tour and become guys that we all know their names. Yeah.
Every one of them. So that's kind of my story of growing up and developing. And I got very fortunate. In eighth and ninth grade, I hurt my left knee in football.
You said, yeah. And that made you concentrate on golf.
It really did. It took me out. I was on crutches for six weeks or so. And I remember thinking-- while that was going on, I'm in school thinking, why am I playing these other sports when I really love golf? And so it put all my focus into golf.
The funny thing is I say this story as in, I chose golf. My dad says golf chose me. I think it's a brilliant way to look at it.