Monday, July 11, 2011

Meet Connor Black, the top-ranked 15-year-old in the U.S.

Played golf today with the No. 1-ranked junior golfer in the country for the high school class of 2014.

Fifteen-year-old Connor Black played Memorial Park from the tips and shot a ho-hum 73. That’s all of 7,305 yards, by the way. And he did it with 32 putts – an abnormally high amount for him.

Katy's Connor Black is the top-ranked
junior in the U.S. for the class of 2014.
(I scuffed along with an unimpressive 84, for what it’s worth … which isn’t much.)

We’ll feature Black, who lives in Katy, Texas, prominently in the August issue of Houston Links. Pat Wheeler is working on a story about Dallas junior Scottie Scheffler for the August issue of DFW Links.

Black ranks first in the U.S. for boys in the class of 2014 by both Polo/AJGA and Golfweek. He won the Western Junior Amateur last month, only a week after he placed third at the prestigious AJGA’s FootJoy Invitational. He said the competition was a little tougher at the FootJoy, but the win at the Western Junior Am meant more "by far" to him.

"I didn't win at the FootJoy," he said.

He’s got an interesting story, as he was homeschooled in junior high because it was easier to travel the country playing amateur golf. He changed it up last year and attended Cinco Ranch High School as a freshman … and won seven of the eight high school tournaments he entered.

Next year he plans to go back to homeschooling – he missed out on too many coveted national events because of Cinco Ranch’s annoying attendance policies. He will attended Pensacola Christian Academy remotely. He receives his lessons in DVD form and chooses the times he attends school. Sometimes he is "in school" early in the mornings, other times it is in the afternoon. Some weeks he's in school for five days; other times, it's six or even seven days a week.

“It depends on the weather,” he said.

Black has been playing golf since he was 4 years old. He won a U.S. Kids World Championship at age 12 (he took third place in the international championship as a 10-year-old), and he won the Starburst Junior Golf Classic in 2007 as an 11-year-old.

Black will try to become the third Texan in the
past five years to win the U.S. Junior Am.
Besides being blown away at his accuracy off the tee and overall ball-striking, what was interesting about today was Connor’s personality. I’ve covered him a few times – he tied for third at the Houston City Amateur last year – and I’ve always pegged him for a quiet, introverted kid.

I couldn’t be more wrong. During our time today, he asked me as many questions as I asked him. He was curious about where I grew up (Kansas), whether or not I played golf in high school or college (no on both counts) and what my other interests were.

He wasn’t shy in the least. It was refreshing, and it made the day that much more enjoyable.

(Side note: I guess I have to get used to this “Mr. Button” thing. I heard it about 20 times today. Connor is polite as he is talented.)

The kid definitely has a bright future, and it will be fun to watch him continue to grow as a person and a golfer. He’ll tee it up next week at the U.S. Junior Amateur at Gold Mountain Golf Club in Bremerton, Wash.

Texas has had a rich history at the U.S. Junior Am recently. Houston's Cory Whitsett won the national championship in 2007, and Dallas' Jordan Spieth won it in 2009. Connor will attempt to keep the odd-year streak alive for Texas juniors.

Be sure to check out the August issue of Houston Links to read about this extremely talented young golfer.

- Mark Button, Texas Links Magazines

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