Novi (Mich.) junior golf sensation Garret Buckley’s affection for the game developed at age 4, when he tagged alongside his father’s leisurely rounds. While Buckley spent more time admiring the surrounding wildlife than swinging clubs, he was hooked on the experience.
By age 7, Buckley was taking golf lessons, and aside from a stint of Pee Wee soccer, golf has dominated the majority of his schedule ever since.
At Buckley’s first American Junior Golf Association (AJGA) event at St. James Plantation (N.C.) in April — which featured players from 16 states, Canada and Thailand — he tied for fourth place.
Though Buckley’s high school team failed to qualify forthe state tournament earlier this month — Novi finished sixth at regionals — Buckley put it behind him. He now turns his attention to his next two AJGA challenges: the Coca-Cola Junior Championship in July and the Randy Wise Jr. Open in mid-August. When he’s not honing his craft, he’ll mix in college visits — Buckley is considering Dayton, Miami (Ohio), San Diego and the University of California.
As busy as he is, Buckley slowed down just enough to step into this week’s Ultimate Athlete spotlight.
For the next eight months, we’re profilingcases deemed Ultimate Athlete-worthy as part of an ongoing, interactive discussion about what sport supersedes the rest. Check in each week for athlete profiles, smack talk, training videos and more, culminating with the crowning of the Ultimate Athlete.
We caught up with Buckley after his visit to Dayton.
What lures you to golf?
Buckley: It’s a challenge because it’s an extremely precise sport that you can never perfect. I’m definitely a perfectionist; I like the fact that golf is an objective game.
As someone who has played for many years, what do you think is most misunderstood about the game?
Buckley: Tournament golf is a completely different sport than regular golf. There’s a different approach for a tournament — you’ve got to rewire your thinking. It becomes a mental test. Can you keep calm at the start of each hole? Once you get to high school, college or beyond, most of the advancement comes from maintaining a stable mental state and having a good attitude.
How do you exercise your mind?
Buckley:I’ll work on my swing to get it as comfortable as I can, and then I’ll work on hitting different shots and putting the swing outside my comfort zone so that when I’m in high-pressure situations, I can have the confidence that the shot should go where I need it to go.
Who do you look up to in the sport and why?
Buckley: Brandt Snedeker, my favorite PGA Tour player. I love watching him play because very rarely is he negative on the course — he always has a great attitude. The way he approaches the game, he has a lot of trust in his swing. He tends to play quite fast and fires through. I’ve told myself to trust my swing. It works for him — I know it can work for me.
How has your appetite for the sport evolved as you’ve developed your game?
Buckley: Over the years I realized golf was something I wanted to make a career of, whether that be running a club, teaching, being a high school or college coach. I want to be involved in the game.
Defend your sport. What about golf makes it worth investing yourself?
Buckley: It’s a real test. You learn about yourself — how you react to stress and success. You can definitely apply that to a lot of situations. It teaches core values — honesty, integrity — that are important in all aspects of life. Because it’s an individual game, it brings out the best and worst in you. That’s why I love it.