by Tim Martin
As far back as he can remember, Tim Crowley Jr. remembers golf. His father was an avid golfer. His family lived a three wood away from the Redwood Empire Golf and Country Club in Fortuna. As a toddler, Tim could stand in his back yard and see the action on the 10th green. He could hear the ball whacked sharply, whistling softly.
By the time he was 4, he was touring the club in the passenger seat of his father's golf cart. At age 6, putter in hand, he practiced continuously, swinging away at the ball, running to keep up. Following, literally, in his father's footsteps.
"The rule was he could play as long as he could keep up," said Tim Crowley Sr. "He had a cut-off club and he would hit and run, hit and run."
Tim Crowley Sr. in the days when father could still beat son at golf.
Ten years later, Tim's father now runs to keep up with him.
"I can beat him if I'm having a real good day and he's having a real bad day," he said. "Other than that, forget it."
Not many North Coast golfers, pro or otherwise, are capable of beating Crowley. The 6 foot, 2 inch, 16-year-old Fortuna High senior has become a golfing prodigy and a prodigious hitter who has dominated the local junior ranks for the past three years.
As a freshman, Crowley won All-County player of the year and competed in the 1994 Oldsmobile amateur tournament in Florida. (He was the youngest person to ever compete.) As a sophomore, he won the Eureka City Junior Championship, and the Eureka City Championship. As a junior, he again dominated the junior ranks with All-County honors.
Then, last April, Crowley proved he can hit with the big boys by breaking the course record at Redwood Empire Golf and Country Club in Fortuna.
"I shot a 64 on the course, breaking the old mark of 65," said Crowley. "I didn't feel like I was playing that good until about the 15th or 16th hole."
"What impressed me more than anything was that once he realized he had a chance to do it, he put his mind to it and got it done," said his father.
Greg Senestraro, a golf pro at the Fortuna country club, and the previous course record holder, considers Crowley one of the best golfers in Northern California.
"Tim has unlimited potential," said Senestraro. "He's young, shooting great scores and still maturing. There is no telling how far golf might take him."
Tim Crowley Jr. at age 16. (Photo by Brandi Easter)
"He's probably the only junior golfer who is included in every tournament in the area," added his father. "Tim wouldn't let them not include him. He'd drive them out of their mind until they let him play."
Part of Crowley's strength as a golfer is that he loves the game. He can't seem to get enough of it. Last year Crowley played more than 220 rounds of golf. And that's not counting practice days.
"Tim is everything you want an athlete to be," said Senestraro. "He's a hard worker, he has confidence, he follows the rules and he has a burning desire to win.
"Tim also has a great long ball," added Senestraro. "He's driving 290-300 yards. He's one of the longest hitters among junior golfers."
To put the length of Crowley's drives into perspective, consider that Tiger Woods averages 323 yards on his drives.
Jim Hosley, a pro at Baywood Golf and Country Club in Arcata, is also impressed by Crowley's long drives.
"Tim hits it pretty straight as a rule," said Hosley. "He just needs to work on his short game. Sixty-five percent of all shots are from 100 yards in."
According to Hosley, Crowley also needs to slow down. The kid plays golf like he's double-parked.
"He's a quick player. Tim needs to work on his pre-shot routine. He needs to be more consistent, to keep the same tempo throughout the game."
Slow down. Be consistent. It's the same message Tim's father has drilled into him time and again.
"My dad taught me almost everything I know about golf," said Crowley. "He taught me to have good self-control, focus and intensity. I got mad once and it cost me a shot. I don't do that anymore.
"Concentration is important, too," he added. "If you get that mental picture of the line, 90 percent of the time you're going to make it. If you're going to miss a putt in your mind, you're most likely going to miss it on the green. As soon as you lose your concentration, you do something dumb."
In the 1960s golf was considered "square" among high school age children. With the manicured greens, the plaid polyester clothing and the little electric golf carts, it was thought to be a sissy's game. Now, thanks in part to Tiger Woods, the game has become cool. Kids are taking it up in numbers never before seen.
Setting an example for young Crowley is Ladies Professional Golfers' Association's Chris Johnson, winner of this year's LPGA Championship.
Johnson, of Arcata, is a loyal contributor to Humboldt County's junior golf program. She'll be at Baywood on Sept. 8 for the annual Chris Johnson Tournament, a fundraiser for junior golf in Humboldt County.
Crowley hopes to play golf for a Division I college next year.
"Tiger Woods played Division I golf for Stanford," said Tim. "I'd like to play for Arizona State, UNLV or Fresno State, something like that."
Why not Stanford?
"Schools like Stanford are like meat grinders," he said. "The competition is too stiff. I've talked to some of the kids who have gone there, and they never get to play collegiate golf. They're good players, but not good enough to make the traveling teams. You're better off finding a school where you can play. You need inter-collegiate experience if you're going to take your game to the next level."
Meanwhile, Crowley continues to compete as a junior golfer, but his sights are on the future.
"I just need to keep working on my game," he said. "I want to be a touring pro some day."
A touring pro? With his talent and dedication, anything's possible.
Tim Martin is a heating and ventilation specialist at Humboldt State Unviersity when he's not writing.
A GOLF SWING THROUGH
Experiences, costs, courses.
GOLF COURSES IN
Public courses and courses for members only.
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