Mauriceville 11-year-old golf prodigy making name for himself

Jack Burke (left) and coach Todd Ross (right)

Golf is a stressful game that requires both skill and patience — the latter trait often lacking in children of a young age.

Even senior golfers experience “unpleasant mood states” dur-ing a round of 18 holes, a 2005 study in the Journal of Sports Science and Medicine found. But 11-year-old Mauriceville golfer Jack Burke, who was recognized by the Little Cypress-Mauriceville Board of Trustees on Sept. 9 for his golfing prowess, has “nerves of steel,” according to his father Aaron Burke. Jack proved his resolve while qualifying for the Texas Junior Cup Team that will compete for the Ryder Cup this October in Austin.

“He was tied for first after day one of the STPGA Junior Championship and then pared out after opening with three straight bogeys to tie for third,” said Aaron, campus athletic coordinator and head football coach at Mauriceville Middle School. “The officials then informed us that with only four spots open, there would need to be a three-player playoff to see what two boys were going to make the team. My wife and I were a nervous wreck. I had never been that nervous for him and to watch him bomb his drive shot five feet from the hole was a memory I will never forget. He would grab an easy par (Jack’s mother), and she was bawling behind the tent, behind the green – she couldn’t even watch. … We were both falling apart, (but) the bigger the tournament the more Jack seems to step up. He loves the ‘big’ moments.”

Only first place is accept-able for Jack in and out of the sport, his father said.

“He is his worst critic,” Aaron said. “He always finds something he could have done better. Jack’s world is all about straight A’s, pars and birdies. He is as driven in the class-room as he is on the course. He wants to be the best and does a great job at juggling the two.”

For Jack, practicing golf isn’t a boring inconvenience; it is an opportunity to improve.

“He works hard on all the aspects of his game,” Aaron said. “If we are at the course he may spend an hour on the putting green or chipping green instead of playing a round. Even at 11 now, we can drop him off at the course and he’ll spend 6-8 hours just working and playing. Not many kids his age want to be at a golf course all day.”

“It takes practice to be the best,” Jack said, adding that he loved everything about golf including the practice.

Jack’s coach Todd Ross deserves a lot of the credit for Jack’s success and improve-ment, Aaron said.

“Jack had worked with a few others, but when we met Todd, we knew we had found the right guy,” Aaron said. “He has a special touch, and his teaching technique is by far the best I’ve seen. If Jack is struggling with a part of his game, Todd can get with him and work it out — his game has really improved with Todd’s help.”

In fact, Jack has loved the game ever since he was able to walk and hold a club, his father said.

“I think Jack is a natural,” Aaron said. “His swing was effortless even when he was swinging in the backyard at 4 years old. I thought back then ‘Hey, he might be a golfer one day.’”

By the time he was 5, Jack played full rounds with his dad, also an avid golfer, at Sunset Grove Country Club in Orange. He began competitive golf at the age of 7 in the Southern Texas Junior PGA and First Tee programs, playing tournaments all across the state. According to his father, the older Jack got, the more serious he became about the sport and eventually, he was even able to compete with his father.

“Jack has steadily picked up strokes on me and has now beaten me a few times,” Aaron said. “I knew he was going to beat me one day, just not at 11 years old.”

When he got old enough to start playing in tournaments, Jack’s level of play seemed to progress rapidly, Aaron said.

“By the second year, he was winning almost every tournament he played in his age division. The first win was like, ‘Wow, you won’ … then came five wins, and then 10 and so on. When he won his 25th tournament, we began to think this was something spe-cial. The wins definitely get tougher the older you get, and especially when you get out-side the Golden Triangle. But then came 40 and then 50, and then it seemed like a mission for Jack. He went in to every tournament expecting to win, and that’s when the victories just started piling up.”

Jack has won a total of 75 tournaments and said he feels confident going into Austin to compete.

“I’m going to play my best and concentrate on every doesn’t work, he wants to get his PGA management degree and be a golf pro.”

His father said he is opti-mistic about his son’s destiny in the sport of golf and beyond. “Jack’s future is in his hands,” Aaron said. “We will support him and be there for him. We think with his dedica-tion and love of the game – the sky is the limit. Sabrina and I are proud of the young man Jack is becoming. The grades and the golf are great, but there is more to life than that. Jack does a lot of things that we are proud of – we are truly blessed parents.”