When it comes to learning how to play golf, it doesn’t hurt to have a parent — or two — who know how to swing the club. And if dad or mom just happen to be wellknown instructors, even better.
At least that’s the consensus of Lindy LaBauve and Blake Brown, two East Valley teenagers with golfing parents in high places. LaBauve and Brown, who took radically different paths in learning the game, will be representing Arizona when the National Junior PGA Championship is played Aug. 10-13 at Westfield Center, Ohio.
LaBauve’s parents are Mike and Sandy, both “Top 100’’ instructors, according to Golf Magazine. Brown’s father is Bruce, who happens to be the general manager at Mesa Country Club.
The gene pool runs even deeper for LaBauve, whose grandfather was Jack Lumpkin, one of the pioneers of the Golf Digest Schools. Still, she didn’t get into the game until the age of 12, shortly after giving up softball as her sport of choice.
“My dad helped me with my swing shape,’’ noted LaBauve, a 17-year-old senior at Scottsdale Desert Mountain High School. “Having played softball, it was an easy transition to the golf swing.
“At the same time, my parents never pushed me into (golf). And when I did get into the game, both emphasized that having fun was the most important factor regardless of how I scored.’’
Brown’s path was much more accelerated.
“I started playing when I was 11 months old, although I was too young to remember it’’ said Brown, 16, who will be a junior at Scottsdale Horizon High School. “I really don’t remember those early years, or anything before I was about 3 or 4 and started playing at Starfire in Scottsdale, where my dad also was the general manager at the time.’’
Both LaBauve and Brown said they are grateful for their parents’ help and insight.
And both said the game will be a big part of their lives in the future, their parents’ influence playing a key role in that decision.
No surprise, really, although it goes against the grain of what other children experience in making life choices. According to a national survey conducted by Junior Achievement, 78 percent of all high school students don’t want to pursue the career path of their parents, while 11.5 percent want to follow their fathers and 4.1 percent their mothers, with 6.4 percent undecided.
But those somewhat startling statistics don’t necessarily hold up when it comes to golf, said Sean Ferris, who oversees the junior program for the Southwest Section of the PGA.
“Unlike kids with parents who have other careers (than golf), families involved in golf are more of an exception,’’ said Ferris when told of the survey’s results. “It’s a career that is fun, and it’s all about the family and having access, as in access to courses and access to swing tips about the game.
“I guess for kids whose parents are in the (golf) industry, it’s more of a natural evolution. You could say it’s easier for them to succeed at the game, and thus follow in their parents’ footsteps.’’
To date, LaBauve and Brown have yet to play on a big stage like the one they will encounter at the National Junior PGA. That event features the top boys and girls from each of the 41 PGA sections from around the country, and the competition will be intense.
But each played well at the event’s local qualifier held at Cottonwood Country Club in Sun Lakes, where LaBauve rallied from three shots back with a personal-best 67 in the final round, and Brown also posted a 5-underpar 67 over his last 18 holes.
“My parents have always taught me that golf is just a game, and being a bit of a perfectionist, have instilled in me that golf is all about accepting imperfection. I’m still working on that,’’ LaBauve said.
“I really don’t feel any pressure (to succeed), although I did before when my dad was teaching players like Amanda Blumenherst and Cheyene Woods. Right now, I’m just focused on getting better, working hard on my short game, and I think eventually (being a good player) is not out of reach.’’
Bruce Brown has taken a similar approach, said his son.
“My dad has never put any pressure on me, not really,’’ said the younger Brown, who plays in 50 tournaments a year.
“All he’s ever said is play by the rules and go have fun. . . . So all I can tell you is, I do get sick of studying. Who doesn’t? But I never get tired of playing and practicing golf.’’