Hailey Stricker already has collected a fair number of medals and trophies competing in youth tournaments throughout Tampa Bay.
The 12-year-old from Land O’ Lakes is seeking an addition to her trophy case — as a member of the Clearwater Jr. PGA All-Star team.
The 10-member all-star team will compete on Aug. 26 in the PGA Jr. League North Florida Section Championship at Orlando’s Grand Cypress Golf Club.
Earlier this month, the group won a sectional qualifier at Apollo Beach Golf Club, besting a handful of other all-star teams from Tampa, Sarasota and Odessa.
A top finish this weekend would allow the team to advance to the PGA Jr. regional tournament in St. Augustine. Winners from 12 regional tournaments across the country then earn a spot in the seventh PGA Junior League Championship in November in Scottsdale, Arizona.
Stricker, who’s been golfing since age 8, already has made a name for herself within the Greater Tampa Bay Junior Golf Association.
Over the past two years, she’s collected five top-three finishes for her age group. That includes a pair of first place titles she won last October and November, at Wentworth Golf Club and Tampa Palms Golf & Country Club, respectively.
Orlando will mark the longest distance that Stricker has traveled to compete in a golf tournament.
She’s optimistic about the team’s chances, even against tougher competition.
“I’m looking forward to our team pulling through it and winning, so we can go to St. Augustine and do that tournament,” said the seventh-grader, who attends Rushe Middle School.
Stricker is one of three girls on the Clearwater Jr. PGA All-Star team.
She was named to the select squad after strong showings all summer in the PGA Junior League at Westchase Golf Club, in Tampa.
Stricker considers it a special honor.
“It’s kind of cool because I tell people I’m on the all-star team, and they’re proud of me. I just feel really good about it because I’ve practiced and worked hard for this moment,” she said.
Her grandfather, Brian Stricker, is enjoying the moment, too. He’s the one who encouraged the young golfer when she showed an interest in the sport four years ago.
“She kind of took to (golf) in a natural way,” her grandfather said. “She can stand up on the tee and, when she gets a good swing on the ball, she can hit the ball 160 yards straight. She has a pretty well-rounded game, and she just has a passion for it that’s really impressive.”
Stricker said she plans to play golf in high school and “definitely” wants to play in college.
Her ultimate goal? “To play on the LPGA (Ladies Professional Golf Association) Tour,” she said.
Stricker appears to be on the right path for playing at a high level someday, according to Michael Cestone, who operates the Cestone Golf Academy at Westchase Golf Club.
The golf instructor said Stricker has “great promise” and a “very good skillset.”
“She has all of the basic fundamentals of the game,” said Cestone, who nominated Stricker to the Clearwater all-star team. “She has a good swing. She can chip. She can putt. She can do pretty much any of the shots that you need to play golf — it’s just a matter of getting better.”
Cestone noted Stricker regularly shoots in the high 80s and low 90s from the ladies tees.
He “very soon” foresees Stricker reaching the high 70s and low 80s — a striking feat for a young girl.
“If she stays on the track that she’s on, she’ll play college golf,” Cestone said. “Whether she wants a DI (Division 1) or D2 (Division 2) school, that’ll depend on how much time she’s willing to put into this game,” Cestone said.
Published August 22, 2018