Golf

Rising golfer Ty Strafaci approaches sport like no other 15-year-old

 

Special to the Miami Herald

Golf is a game of nerves. A miniscule muscle twitch often leads to a huge mistake.

At age 15, Ty Strafaci is well aware of that but tends to ignore it.

Either 15-year-olds aren’t aware of overwhelming pressure, or someone such as Ty has already gotten used to handling it. He certainly needed to keep his nerves and emotions under control last week to win the Broward Amateur championship in a playoff on Jacaranda’s East Course in Fort Lauderdale.

“It was cool to win it in such dramatic fashion,” he said.

He did admit that there was a bit of nervousness — just not enough to make him stumble when it counted in that playoff.

“Sure, there were just a little nerves,” Strafaci said. “If you’re totally not nervous, that sometimes means you don’t care.”

The victory was the biggest in young Strafaci’s career, which includes many recent victories on the Florida State Golf Association junior tour, which features the elite of Florida’s young golfers.

In the Broward Amateur, Strafaci was two up with five holes to go, but Tyler Paletz, 21, made two birdies down the stretch to catch him.

Playoff beckoned, and it was back to No. 1.

Strafaci got outdriven by Paletz, who weighs 65 pounds more, by some 30 yards.

“I told myself I need to step up now or go home,” Strafaci said.

Strafaci hit his approach 170 yards 10 feet away and just below the hole and to the left. Meanwhile, Paletz’s softly hit 7-iron from 140 strayed into severe trouble in a grass bunker, and his third shot went over the green.

Strafaci, an honor student at Plantation American Heritage, is no dummy. He safely two-putted for the victory.

As he mentioned earlier, he was going home — but it would be with the trophy.

“I would put this in a separate category from my previous wins,” Strafaci said. “It was against a great amateur field.”

In previous years, Broward Amateur winners have included Mike Donald and Chris Couch.

Making it even better was the fact that Strafaci was the youngest-ever winner of the event — by two years.

Despite the victory, Strafaci knows how to keep things in perspective. Winning was huge for him, particularly with his father Frank and brother Trent following the drama, but he wisely added, “You can learn a lot from winning, but you learn more from losing.”

Coming up for Strafaci is the Junior Tour Championship at TPC Sawgrass in Ponte Vedra Beach with its infamous par-3 island green 17th hole. A hole that has baffled and frustrated many a PGA pro.

“I’ve played TPC twice and made it onto the 17th green both times without getting wet, so that’s good,” Strafaci said.

Yes, Strafaci wants to be a PGA player eventually.

“Just have to keep working hard,” he said, “and eventually I’m hopeful I’ll be on the big stage with all the notables.

“That would be great.”

THAT’S A FACT, JACK

So, you launch your drive 240 yards and you puff out your chest and flex your muscles at your playing partners. Well, before you get too carried away, consider the following two drives.

The longest recorded drive in history is by Mike Dobbin in 2010 at 551 yards during a club demonstration day.

The longest recorded drive in actual competition, recognized by Guinness Records, was 515 yards slammed by Mike Austin in the 1974 U.S. Open National Senior Qualifier.

And just to make you feel worse, Austin was using a steel shaft with a persimmon wood clubhead.

And to make you feel really, really bad, he was 64 when he hit the 515-yarder.

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