A Marana High School sophomore took the first swing at this year’s PGA Tour of Champions Cologuard Classic last Friday, Feb. 28 at Omni Tucson National Golf Course.
Nathan Romero, who plays on the Marana High School golf team, opened the tournament’s first round of stroke play by driving the ball down the Catalina Course fairway 290 yards with his Callaway Epic Flash Driver. The 16 year old was selected by The First Tee, an international organization dedicated to teaching golf to youth, according to their website. The organization has a local chapter at El Rio Golf Course.
“I was informed that I selected based on my character and how I carry myself. It was a real honor,” Nathan said. “I’m really grateful to the First Tee and the Tucson Conquistadores for giving me that opportunity to be out there around some great golfers.”
Before taking the opening swing, Nathan received a few tips from PGA golf pros Jerry Kelly and Fred Funk. The duo shared some good advice about the right mental preparation before approaching the tee.
“Jerry Kelly really helped me with my swing and how important it is to turn your body properly,” Nathan said. “He also talked to me about the thought process of your pre-shot routine.”
Nathan’s mother Bernadette said she could barely keep from getting “choked up” while watching her son open the tournament.
“It’s very emotional for a mom to watch as your kids are just starting to grow up, grow into their own and be in their own element,” Bernadette said. “It’s just amazing to see the young man he’s become and the future he has. It’s just beyond words.”
Nathan said he found his love for the links during a family vacation to Sedona five years ago. The family’s hotel was right next to a golf course and the young man said he couldn’t wait to hit the greens.
“(The course) looked fun and I wanted to check it out,” Nathan said. “One of the days we went and I just fell in love with the sport.”
His father Mike has been the driving force behind exposing his son to the sport. Mike said once he noticed Nathan had a passion for the fairway, he took his son golfing every chance he could.
“I’m not a very serious golfer, but I always liked to golf,” Mike said. “Once I knew he was a bit more serious about it, I started taking him out on Friday afternoons.”
At first, Mike and Nathan played golf as a fun recreational sport the father and son could do together. But it was a discussion with retired PGA golf pro, Steve Murphy, which alerted Mike to his son’s natural abilities. He had signed Nathan up for a golf clinic at famed course, Torrey Pines, in San Diego.
“To be honest, I didn’t notice it at first. I’m more of a hacker than a golfer,” Mike said. “When I went to pick him up, Steve shared with me that Nathan had all the mechanics and balance for playing golf. Steve told me ‘You need to get him more involved’.”
Mike said when they came back to Tucson, that’s when they started going to The First Tee and then to Southern Arizona Junior Golf Association to continue with his son’s development.
“That’s what (Nathan) has been doing since, focusing on golf,” Mike said. “I’m so proud of my son and what he has been able to accomplish at this age.”
Back at Marana High School, Nathan said the best round he’s shot while playing for the Tigers was +1 over par on the front-nine at Arizona National Golf Club. Par for the course is 37. He said he hopes to play golf for a Division-I school like the University of Arizona after graduation.