Eyeing the big picture | TheUnion.com

Eyeing the big picture

Nevada Union sophomore Erik Flores was named to the Callaway Golf Junior All-Star Team in Orlando last month.
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Get Erik Flores talking golf and the conversation could take quite some time, as he shares his vast experience from the tees to the greens.

He talks of course layout, club selection, and apparently is capable of recalling an entire round of 18 holes – if you’ve got the time.

He loves this game.

And how could he not, having established nearly a scratch handicap and all? He’s honed his game to a level about which all hackers dream.

Of course, he’s also done this at the ripe old age of 15.

The Nevada Union sophomore just added more hardware to a trophy case that must be chock full of awards by now. The most recent addition, however, may be his most prized – so far.

Flores – and only seven other junior boys nationwide – was named to the Callaway Golf Junior All-Star Team at ChampionsGate Golf Club, near Orlando, Fla.

“It feels pretty good, being labeled a rising star or whatever,” he said.

Flores was competing in a championship round of the American Junior Golf Association’s Callaway Golf Junior All-Star Series Championship, Nov. 27-30. He shot a three-day total of 222 (73-75-74) and finished in a tie for fifth in the event. He qualified for the event by placing in the top 10 at six other AJGA events – including a first-place finish at Palm Springs in July.

“It was like the cream of the crop for my age group,” Flores said of the field in Florida. “It was mostly 15-year-olds and a few 16-year-olds. It’s pretty big, showing you can compete with (the best of) your age group.”

But the fact that Flores is competing – and winning – doesn’t sound so surprising, coming from an oddly even-keeled teenager. Not too high, not too low, he keeps his emotions in check.

Sure he can crush the ball 300 yards, but he’ll tell you he averages 270-280 yards. It’s not the one big drive, nor the one tight pin shot – it’s the whole package, the entire round, the progress over the course of a season.

He’s got his eye on the big picture – a college scholarship – and has apparently left the ego in the rearview mirror.

“Consistency? That’s what I’ve been trying to build on, really, this whole season,” he said. “It doesn’t matter if you shoot an 85 or a 65, that’s not what the colleges are looking for. It really depends on how low you can go on the good days and how low you are on the bad days.”

His performance in the Callaway season series displays that consistency, as he has averaged a 74.1 in 12 competitive rounds of golf. But there is occasionally the bad hole or two. For example, Flores remembered his play on the 17th hole in the final round at ChampionsGate, on which he carded an eight.

“He does get frustrated,” said Flores’ father, Ricardo. “But you have a lot of ups and downs. He actually had a lot more ups in the beginning (of his playing career). Last year was actually his worst down. He was growing a lot and it took a bit of his confidence.

“That happens when you start going through your physical maturity. It happens to all golfers.”

But keeping frustration in check is the key, Flores said. He followed up the eight with a par on the final hole of the tournament, locking up his fifth-place finish.

He began playing golf at age 5, shooting rounds alongside his father. His competitive career started at 9, when he began playing in junior tournaments, in which he said he played between 15 and 20 this summer.

In between tournaments, Flores can often be spotted working on his game at the Auburn Valley Country Club, usually using the short-game facilities.

“It’s a lot of drills – chipping and putting and working on my swing,” he said. “I really don’t play (entire rounds) that much. Maybe once or twice a week.”

If all goes according to plan, Flores would achieve goals such as making the cut at the Junior Amateur and the United States Amateur tournaments. He said teeing off in college is definitely in the mix, but beyond that?

“After college, the next step in my career is to go pro,” he said. “I’m definitely shooting to go pro, but I’m not going to pull a Tiger Woods and leave after two years. Even if I was that good, I’d stay for the degree.”

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