Driving in the new era of golf

Joseph+Pagdin+hits+a+putt+for+TPS+at+Alaqua+Country+Club+against+Orangewood.

Julia Orr

Joseph Pagdin hits a putt for TPS at Alaqua Country Club against Orangewood.

Michael Hull, Staff Writer

When I was younger, my mom told me that I could be anything I wanted when I grew up. My head started swimming with thoughts of being an astronaut, a fireman, a professional football player, anything that came to mind. Something that never came to my mind was being a pro golfer. To me, golf was a slow sport filled with green jackets and Tiger Woods’ fist pumps. I never thought about playing it competitively, and I am not alone. According to Livestrong.com, the most popular sport to play for young athletes is basketball, followed by baseball, football, soccer and track. Golf did not make the list.

Players like Jordan Spieth are about to change all that. Spieth, 22, has quickly become the new, fresh face of golf. He has already won two major golf championships, the 2015 Masters and the 2015 U.S. Open.

His first major win, the Masters, was in Augusta, Georgia with 14 million people watching at home. That is a 26% increase from last year’s viewership, according to CBS Sports. His next major, the U.S. Open, came with 11.2 million people watching, a 46% increase from the past year’s tournament, according to TVbythenumbers.com.

Spieth is sponsored by some of the world’s most recognizable companies, such as Under Armour and AT&T. He has quickly become one of the most popular athletes in the sports world.

Spieth is not alone in the rising golf movement. Golfers like Rory McIlroy, Zach Johnson and Rickie Fowler have put golf back on the map. They have more youth fans following the game and playing it than ever before.

“Modern equipment and golf balls have changed the game over the years,” Varsity Golf coach Bill Geisler said. “It’s still the greatest game to play for young and old. It’s an individual sport that teaches character, responsibility and personal honesty like no other sport on earth. It’s these characteristics of golf that appeal to me and that they never go out of style.”

While athletes like Spieth are the growing present of golf, the future is right here at Trinity. Joseph Pagdin is in 8th grade and is already making his name heard in the golf world. He is currently ranked No. 2 in the nation for junior golfers and won the Future Masters this past May. He is the number one golfer on this year’s young team, which includes four juniors. Pagdin is not scared of the pressure.

“I feel when I go to matches most of the time I feel like the other team is looking at me like, ‘oh who’s this little kid?’” Pagdin said. “But then after the match they always come up to me and say ‘Wow, I thought you would be like a hack,’ and I always get some confidence after that.”

Will Delgado, a sophomore and third-year member on the varsity team, knows how it feels to be the youngest on the team.

“It’s pretty crazy,” he said about Joseph. “He’s kinda the little baby of the team, but he’s a great golfer. He’s our number one so we need him. It’s pretty cool having him on the team.”

Geisler has been the golf coach for 10 years at Trinity and he is excited about the young roster.

“We have a generally young team and all eight team members are very competitive,” Geisler said.  “Joseph is an all around excellent player with a very good short game.”

Pagdin prides himself on his short game.

“When I was young, all I did was hit,” he said. “So ever since then I’ve worked on my short game, and now I think it’s the best part of my game.”

Many young golfers look up and model their game after professionals. Many like Tiger Woods or Phil Mickelson are popular gofers to look up to.

“I like Justin Rose because of his demeanor and his attitude,” Pagdin said. “He’s not someone who goes wild.” He also looks up to Spieth.

“At my age he played in the tournaments I played in, and he went to college and then turned pro,” he said. “That’s pretty much what I want to do.”

The Varsity Golf team has a very tough road ahead of them. Teams like Masters, State Champions Circle Christian and Lake Highland are just three of teams they will have to best.

“When the whole team plays Lake Highland there is this connection that we all get as a team,” Pagdin said.

Even with some of the best teams in Florida on their schedule, expectations are still high from the Saints.

“Definitely make it to states,” Delgado said, “We should win Districts, and then Regionals we just have to come in the top two.”

Geisler has similar expectations.

“My expectation is to compete with the top state teams at District, Regional and State FHSAA competitions,” Geisler said. “We hope to be a winner this year no matter the outcome.”

This team has the skill to win states this year and, under the leadership of Geisler, may be able to do just that.