OK, you are mid-30s, 6-foot-2, 210 pounds and are in good shape – as is your golf game. You can pound a drive some 250 yards, and you have posted a few rounds in the 70s and are consistently in the 80s after playing the game for some 20-plus years.
You’re feeling pretty good about your game, right?
Well, sorry, everything is relative and we might have to take your golf smugness – and ego – down a notch or two.
We do that by introducing you to 14-year-old Lorenzo Rodriguez, all 5-8 and 130 pounds of him. After grasping a golf club for the first time at age 4, the Belen Jesuit high school eighth-grader is now pounding his drive 280 yards. Put a 7-iron in his hands, and the ball will travel 135 yards or so.
Does the word “wunderkind” mean anything to you?
Recently, in the Florida State High School championships at Howey-in-the-Hills, Rodriguez was Miami-Dade’s top finisher in Division II.
“I am pretty sure I was the only eighth-grader competing in the state tournament this year,” Lorenzo said.
Was he intimidated?
Well, maybe a little. “Everybody there sure did seem a lot bigger than me,” Lorenzo said with a smile.
Lorenzo’s golf accomplishments, in addition to his early-age appearance at the state championship, are numerous:
- Finished first in Under Armour’s Spring Junior Tournament National Championship.
- Finished first in the Hurricane Junior Golf College Prep Series at the University of Florida.
- Finished first in Under Armour’s Junior Tour Florida State Championship.
- Competed in a junior tournament at Pinehurst. OK, the course was Pinehurst No. 8 and not No. 2, but c’mon, it was Pinehurst.
Suffice it to say there are more accomplishments and trophies on display at the Rodriguez home.
However, shove all those trophies aside. There is one other tournament that meant more to Lorenzo and his father/coach, Carlos Rodriguez. And it will be one of the most important tournaments Lorenzo ever will play.
That tournament came in the 2021 Under Armour Winter National Championships at the IMG Academy in Bradenton. The fact that Lorenzo won was not nearly the most important part of that day. Emotion and tears were the most important entities on display.
Let Carlos explain:
“The tournament was played in some pretty tough rainy and windy conditions,” Carlos Rodriguez said.
“After the first day, we were one back of the lead and got into the final pairing.
“As we were warming up on the range, I received news that a former player of mine and teammate of Lorenzo’s, Andres Ludert, had just lost his father, who had been battling Covid. I called Andres and told him we were dedicating this round to him and his father.
“After hanging up with what was a brutally emotional call just before our round, I received a text message from Andres saying, ‘Enjoy it, you never know when it can be your last one. Love you guys.’”
When Lorenzo made the turn after the front nine, he was three strokes behind.
“What happened next was nothing short of a God incident,” continued Carlos.
“After an incredible par on No. 10, Lorenzo went on to birdie three of the last four holes and took the title. Words cannot express the emotions we felt when Lorenzo walked off the green and gave me a bear hug.”
Yes, golf can be more – much, much more – than just hitting a dimpled ball.
Carlos Rodriguez oversees Golf Academy U.S.A., which teaches youngsters from ages 5 to 18 from beginning golf to refining already polished swings. The Academy works out of four golf courses – Miccosukee, Killian Greens, Miami Springs and the Rick Smith Academy at Doral. At Killian Greens, Carlos Rodriguez has also instituted a beginning First Tee program.
“We’re trying to build golfers for life, competitively and recreationally,” Carlos said.
It is fair to say that the Rodriguez family is immersed in golf.
Lorenzo spends two to three hours a day working on his game, including time on a putting green recently built at the family’s home.
Of the game, Lorenzo admitted, “Yes, I am obsessive about golf. It can be challenging. It can be easy. It can be frustrating. But I love it. I have never gotten tired of golf, and I never will.”
Why is he so enamored with the game?
“I like that you have your own time out on the course,” Lorenzo said. “Nobody is yelling at you. OK, yes, you can yell at yourself in your head. That’s because it’s a thinking game. It’s also a singular game where you get to worry about yourself and not anybody else.”
Lorenzo has a brother, one year older, named Adrian who also is adept at the game and also plays on the Belen varsity.
There is no sibling rivalry, but sibling revelry.
“His brother is proud of Lorenzo,” Carlos said. “Adrian was assigned to do a project in school. You know what he did for that project? He made a video on Lorenzo going to state and being on the varsity golf team and all his success.”
Lorenzo was both thankful and impressed by his brother’s gesture.
“The video was super cool,” Lorenzo not-so-humbly described it.
Dad Carlos splits his time with the boys, caddying for both of them.
Asked what golfer he would most enjoy playing a round with, Lorenzo came up with the answer that most golfers – of any age – would give.
“Of course, it would be Tiger Woods,” Lorenzo said.
When asked what he would say to Woods, Lorenzo came up with the perfect, smartest and most logical answer conceivable.
“That’s simple,” he said, “I would ask him, ‘Mr. Woods, can you help me with my swing?’”
If anything makes complete sense in the world of golf, that most certainly does.