JACK BURKE: A YOUNG GOLFING PHENOM IN OUR OWN BACKYARD
I’ve been covering high school sports in the Orange area for more than 50 years and have watched many young star athletes go on to the next level and a few hit the professional circuit.
In almost every case involving the professionals, they always were seen playing their specialty sport under adult supervision when they were just little shavers.
This also was true with the few outstanding young golfers who came out of Orange County—Brady Miller in the late 1960’s, Scott Sterling around 2000 and Michael Arnaud in the 2005 vicinity.
Whenever Brady Miller ever had an outstanding round after graduating from Lutcher Stark High School, his momma, Pat, was ringing my chimes at the Orange Leader sports department making sure I dotted every “I” and crossed every “t”. It almost appeared like she was Brady’s agent and I was his publicist.
Sterling could be seen with his dad, Pete, giving him some of the finer pointers of the game. As a teenager, Scott was talented enough to play collegiate golf at LSU and later tried out and joined one of the satellite tours and played there for several years.
Michael Arnaud got started at the game of golf when his grandfather (Jim Arnaud) brought him and his scaled-down golf set to DERA just after sun-up. A bunch of us were making the turn and could see the Arnaud twosome almost finished with their 18-hole round.
Michael continued to play with his granddad as he was growing up, getting stronger each year. When Michael got to high school he was the main man on the West Orange-Stark team. He played some college golf, but also tried out and made one of the many satellite tours that were popping up.
Today we have a new star on the horizon in Jack Burke, who has been playing with his dad, Aaron, for several years at Sunset Grove Country Club. I kind of followed his career as his name kept showing up at the top of the 9-hole results for six-year-old boys’ tournament at various locations in Southeast Texas.
Aaron Burke made sure Jack got entered in his age-group tournaments as he got older. And invariably, Jack’s name was always at or near the top of every event, even when he played in larger junior tournaments during the summers.
It seemed to me that Jack was three-or four years ahead of his peers in the talent department. And that is still true today, playing for the Little Cypress-Mauriceville boys’ golf team as a freshman. He still is consistently playing better than most of the opposing high school’s senior stars.
In tournaments going into this week, Jack has fired rounds between 69-71 and was the tournament’s medalist in all but one event. That was at the Beaumont Country Club where his school-record 70 was bettered by Beaumont Kelly senior Tyler Gonzalez, who shot 69 to capture medalist honors.
Burke got his revenge over Gonzalez by sizzling the course with a 69-last week in the Larry Paine Memorial Golf Tournament at Henry Homberg Golf Course in Beaumont and captured top honors.
I hoped I could watch Jack Burke in action and on Sunday my wish came true. He actually wanted to play at Sunset Grove with our regular foursome of codgers–Craig Couvillion (60’s), Kenny Ruane and yours truly (70’s) and Bob Hoepner (80’s).
We tried to figure out a game that would be fair to us codgers but failed. Jack was just too good, although he was two over par on the front nine, he came back with four birdies on the back. He ended up with 37-33—70, one under par!
When Jack said he screwed up a shot, it would end up on the right side of the green instead of the left side. When I messed up a shot (and I had plenty of those) you could see the squirrels in the trees grabbing their crash helmets, hoping they wouldn’t get hit.
Luckily, we weren’t playing for money, because our wallets would be empty and Jack would be driving a new car.
KWICKIES…Good luck to the two area basketball teams that qualified for this week’s high school state tournament at the Alamo- dome in San Antonio. Defending state champion Silsbee takes on Somerset 3 p.m. Friday in the Class 4A semifinals while Port Arthur Memorial meets Midlothian 7 p.m. Thursday in Class 5A.
And while on the subject of basketball tournaments, the Lamar men’s basketball team meets Central Arkansas 7:30 p.m. today (Wed.) in the first round of the Southland Conference Tournament at the Merrell Center in Katy. And the SLC champion Lamar Lady Cardinals get a first-round bye and don’t play until Saturday in the semifinal round against an opponent to be determined, also at the Merrell Center.
One of the collegiate football players participating in the recent combine at Indianapolis has drawn plenty of attention and praise because he is working out at linebacker and has only one hand. Shaquen Griffin played his career at the University of Central Florida and is hoping to get drafted into the NFL.
Veteran golfer Phil Mickelson wowed the huge crowd watching last weekend’s PGA Tour Mexican Championship with a five-under par 66 in Sunday’s final round at Mexico City. Lefty was two strokes behind leader Justin Thomas with three holes to go and sunk birdie putts on Nos 16 and 17 which forced a playoff. Thomas bogeyed the first extra hole giving Mickelson his first tourney victory since the 2013 British Open, breaking a 101-tournament dry spell.
Bridge City’s Brian Clark won Saturday’s 9th Annual Gusher Marathon. It was his third straight victory in the event and he won it with a personal record time of 2:47.49. He is the only runner to win the marathon multiple times.
JUST BETWEEN US…Houston Texans owner Bob McNair’s comments last fall about “inmates running the prison” pertaining to players kneeling for the National Anthem could very well come back to bite him. His apology wasn’t taken as sincere by most NFL players, according to Sunday’s edition of the Houston Chronicle and it could be a factor if the Texans go the free age