Most high school seniors are in the midst of graduation ceremonies, parties and college planning. Not so much for St. Michael’s Academy’s Daniel De La Garza.
His plans changed two weeks ago when he shot a 2-under par 70 to tie for first in a U.S. Open local qualifier at The Hills Country Club. That puts him in an Open sectional qualifier Monday at Lakewood Country Club in Dallas.
A top finish there and it’s on to the U. S. Open June 13-18 at Merion Golf Club in Pennsylvania. Not a bad exclamation point on your high school résumé.
At 5-5 and perhaps 140 pounds, De La Garza is not an imposing figure when he steps on the first tee. It’s a different story when he walks off the 18th green and scores are totaled.
De La Garza has been turning in impressive scorecards for some 10 years. He grew up in Monterrey, Mexico where got into golf when he was 7 and would tag along with his father and older brother in their weekly Sunday game.
“I loved the game right away,” De La Garza said. “They kept playing just once a week, but I started playing or practicing almost every day.”
The effort paid off, and among De La Garza’s numerous titles was the Mexican Junior National Championship.
Three years ago, De La Garza’s parents, Luis and Rosy, moved to Austin with Daniel, his older brother and two older sisters. Daniel attended Westlake for one year and St. Michael’s the last two.
De La Garza’s golf game has been on a steady upward path since the move to Austin. He was the Texas Golf Association’s junior player of the year for 14-under, and last year was an American Junior Golf Association All-American when he finished fourth in the Junior Players Championship. Golfweek magazine ranks him No. 22 among the nation’s juniors.
De La Garza may have an even stronger game in the classroom. In August he will begin his golf and academic career at Harvard.
Harvard or no Harvard, De La Garza already shows some brains.
“I can hit it pretty far for my size, but I’m not out there trying to hit it long,” De La Garza said. “My strength is my short game, especially putting. Most tournaments are won not by the guy who hits it the longest, but by somebody who can chip and putt.”
St. Ed’s women finish season: The St. Edward’s women are still soaking it all in — a fourth-place finish two weeks ago in the NCAA Division II Championship in Daytona Beach, Fla. to put the finishing touch on the best season in the program’s history.
The Hilltoppers won all four of their tournaments last fall. They added three more victories in the spring and never finished out of the top three until the fourth place at the NCAA championship. Senior Wallis Spears was the Heartland Conference’s player of the year. She and junior Ryanne Haddow were second-team All-Americans.
“This was an exceptional group who truly loved and respected one another,” said Jennifer McNeil, who was named the Women’s College Golf Association’s coach of the year for the third straight year and the Heartland coach of the year for the eighth time in her 10 years at St. Edward’s.
“It has been one of the greatest things I’ve seen in coaching,” she said. “That matters a lot in golf where you have a pretty small squad. You have to trust and believe in one another in order to do really well on the course.”