Sarasota Junior Golfer is bound for Augusta
SARASOTA (SNN-TV) - Florida is the nation's golfing capital, with the most courses of any state in the country.
The Suncoast alone has produced top-tier golfers like LPGA Tour pros, sisters Nelly and Jessica Korda. But when it comes to Junior Golf, Sarasota is also home to one of the nation's best players, and she has a huge opportunity ahead of her.
"She's definitely at the very top of the curve. I really don't have to do much with her if I'm honest. She's got such good grounding fundamentals. Her swing's amazing, she absolutely hammers the ball for her size, she hits it so far. She's got all the short game shots. She's going to do great, she's on a good track." - Jon Bullas
Former pro golfer and certified instructor Jon Bullas is referencing his student, Jolie Pastorick, a 14-year old golf phenom. Pastorick and her family originally from Philadelphia moved to the Suncoast to pursue golfing opportunities, and to spend more time with extended family. Jolie first became interested in golf at age six after watching the documentary The Short Game on Netflix.
"The kids that were in the documentary they were around my age. So I saw it, and I was like 'Wow, I could be one of those kids on TV and playing golf. I knew it was possible because they were my age."- Jolie Pastorick
The application of her streaming-service inspired ambition paid off seven years later in October of last year, as Pastorick took part in and won a “Drive, Chip and Putt” Regional Qualifier in Jupiter securing her a spot in the National Finals in Augusta. The event will take place on Sunday, April 2, the eve of the Masters Tournament.
Drive, Chip, and Putt isn’t your normal round of golf, as you are only allotted three drives, three chips and three putts. Participants will accumulate points in each skill. The participant with the highest number of points in an individual skill will be declared the winner of the skill in his or her age category.
As for playing at Augusta National, former pro golfer Bullas says that playing at the mecca of golf is a thrill for adults, let alone a dream for a junior golfer.
"For the kids to get to do that, it's just an unbelievable experience. It's something their families can appreciate and share for to rest of their lives. It's not really about the result at that point, that memory is going to stick forever. You can't ever take that away." - Jon Bullas
Jolie is one of 80 junior golfers representing 29 states and two Canadian provinces who have earned the invitation to compete. Pastorick is finally among the finalists after four previous attempts–three years ago, she missed qualifying by just one single point.
Jolie’s father, Dirk Pastorick, has witnessed his daughter’s dedication first hand by her practicing every day after school and playing tournaments on weekends. He sees the sport as a fundamental building block for Jolie, on top of it being advantageous for her future.
"We've always focused more on learning life lessons from golf, and using as certainly a platform to play maybe at the collegiate level and get a great education from it. If anything goes beyond that, then that would just be icing on the cake. I think for her its about learning the life-skill lessons that you need to be successful at golf." - Dirk Pastorick
Flipping the switch from recreational golf to competitive golf is a detailed changed. It's countless hours of preparation and practice, on top of pushing yourself against top competition. Bullas says that seeing the growth of under golfer under his tutelage is fulfilling, as it allows for the achievement of success.
"Being able to help someone get better and see the enjoyment, whether it's a kid hitting the ball in the air for the first time or making a two-foot putt, it doesn't matter. It's about giving them that spark that makes them want to keep coming back and doing it again. You never know where it's going to lead, it could lead to a story like Dirk and Jolie, they're going off to Augusta. You just never know with that six-year old where it's going to go. If I can be apart of that any small way, it's kind of cool." - Jon Bullas
Jolie will take part in the Drive, Chip and Putt National Finals in Augusta, Georgia on Sunday, April 2nd. The event will be televised on the Golf Channel.