Lucas Vanderlip enjoys nature walks, working in the garden with his mother and dominating the Oregon junior golf circuit. He’s 11 years old and starts sixth grade at Azalea Middle School this fall.
Last week, Lucas won Pee Wee the 88th Oregon Junior Amateur Championship, his sixth tournament since December and his fifth victory.
Lucas has been competing in tournaments since he was 8 and playing golf since he was only 3 years old. He shoots par at Salmon Run and is considering helping out at the course’s youth camp later this month.
“We just started out chippin then we’d putt and it was something we got to go do together and he just took to it,” said Chad Vanderlip, Lucas’ father and the manager of Cedar Bend Golf Course. “When you’ve got a son like this who’s doing stuff like that, you get a lot of stories to tell.”
After a slow year last year, Lucas decided he wanted to follow in the footsteps of his rival Adam Renn, who swept his way through the 8-11 age division for the Oregon junior golf bracket. He was a year older than Lucas.
Lucas often held his own against Renn, but in the end was beaten by his senior. He decided to do this year what Renn did last year: dominate the junior golf bracket
“Last year I had kind of an off season, I played well but just couldn’t pull off a win, but this year I’ve had a good season so far,” Lucas said.
In the 8-11 division, Lucas is currently the biggest in his circuit with nine more tournaments to play this year. He’s looking forward to pursuing a career of golf well into his future and can’t wait to join the Bruins golf team in a few years.
“Professional golfer is my number one, but I’m pretty smart so I kinda want to be a doctor,” Lucas said. “For both golf and educational purposes, I’m thinking Oregon, Stanford, Texas A&M someday.”
Lucas also plays Basketball and soccer, which have been good local diversions since there aren’t any golf teams for kids his age in the Brookings area.
“There’s just no local teams for his age, but we’ve really been encouraging his classmates to pick up the sport so when he’s in high school he’ll have a good team to play with,” said Jennifer Donnally, Lucas’ mother.
Fred Pitt, who has been golfing for more than 50 years and worked 17 years as pro caddie for high level players went as far to call Lucas a prodigy and one of the best players he’s ever seen.
“He understands golf. He knows golf. He loves golf. I’m just there to remind him of that sometimes,” Pitt said.
While Pitt occasionally takes a coaching role with Lucas, he says it’s hard to find things to teach the young player.
“The only thing I’ve ever helped Lucas with is is finding his way around the course and managing his temperment to stay in it and keep his head in the game. I try to stay out of his swing because he’s already got it figured it out. It’s amazing.” Pitt said. “He’s a professional golfer already, he just need to go through motions to get there.”
Lucas’ next tournament will be the Central Willamette Valley Junior tournament from July 9-10 Molala. From there he heads back to the Rogue Valley before making his way to Central Oregon for more tournaments.