Teen golfer takes his game to the top
By Christina Ishizu
In 2002, 13-year-old Michael Whitehead had a choice: play football or golf. He chose golf. Five years later, Michael is moving up the ranks as a junior-level champion golfer.
Michael is the first homeschooler ever to make the Junior All-American team.
In October 2006, the high school senior was named an HP Scholastic Junior All-American by Hewlett Packard and the American Junior Golf Association.
Michael is the first homeschooler ever to make the Junior All-American team. He and 23 other high school-age golfers were chosen based on the strength of their academic skills, community involvement, leadership, and performance in golfing events.
In November, Michael went on to play in the largest tournament open to junior golfers, the Polo Golf Junior Classic, held at the Sea Island Golf Club in Sea Island, Georgia. Though Michael did not receive top ranking in the tournament, he learned a lot from competing against other proficient junior golfers.
Prior to his golfing days, Michael played “just about every sport out there: football, baseball, basketball, you name it,” he says. But his family’s move from Houston to a small Texas town limited his sports options. “It was either football [with the public school] or golf, and we homeschooled, so it was golf,” says Michael. Even after his family’s move back to Houston, Michael stuck with the sport. “It was more challenging than any of the other sports, and I liked that,” says Michael.
Michael has since played in national, state, and local golf competitions.
A homeschooler since 2nd grade, Michael says that home education has given him the flexibility to practice his sport. Frequent competitions require a large time investment in order to improving his skills and traveling. “Homeschooling has given me the time to do what I need to do,” he says. “If I know that it’s supposed to rain in the afternoon, then I can go practice in the morning and do my schoolwork in the afternoon.”
Michael says that more and more top junior golfers are discovering the advantages of homeschooling. “It’s really the only way to go with all the traveling that you do,” says Michael, “They’re doing it because it’s so flexible.”
Michael also hopes to use golfing as a means of sharing his faith. His greatest role model is Aaron Baddeley, an Australian golfer and a Christian. “I kinda want to be in that position,” says Michael, “to be on TV and share my faith.” He says it’s the little things that can communicate the big message. “I put a cross on my golf ball, so that people know it’s mine,” says Michael.
In his downtime, Michael’s favorite activities are eating pizza and watching action movies with his family. He will be graduating from high school in May 2007 and attending Houston’s Rice University in the fall on a golf scholarship. Michael hopes to play professional golf after he finishes college.
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