BAs RockerMark Rocker discusses the upcoming Junior PGA Championship in Ohio.
Bulloch Academy golfer Mark Rocker still has one more season left before he graduates, but that hasn’t stopped him from making a name for himself outside of high school in the golfing world.
A member of the Georgia Junior PGA, the Georgia State Golf Association and the Southeastern Golf Tour, Rocker has been making a name for himself throughout the southeast winning tournaments and improving his game. Most recently, Rocker won the Westfield Georgia Junior PGA Championship that was held Tuesday, June 5 at Birch River Golf Club in Dahlonega, Georgia.
The win wasn’t an easy one for Rocker.
A playoff was needed to decide the 32-hole tournament between Rocker and Andrew Bai out of Cumming. Both players finished with a two-day total of 141.
Fortunately for Rocker, he had faced a playoff the week before – his first. He was able to win the Georgia Vets Junior Classic at the Georgia Veterans Memorial Golf Course in Cordele. In that tournament, Rocker finished tied at even-par 144 with opponents Jimmy Kozikowski and Patrick Garrett. He birdied the third hole of the playoff – the par-4 18th – for the win.
Rocker used that experience the following week in Dahlonega at Birch River when he started his playoff with Bai.
“I had never been in a (playoff) type of situation,” said Rocker in reference to the Georgia Vets Classic. “Then the next week I had to do it in Dahlonega. … I wasn’t as nervous going into that playoff since I did it the week before.”
Rocker sank his putt for par on the first hole of the playoff for the win. It was a big one.
With the win in Georgia Junior PGA, Rocker earned himself a spot in the 32nd National Westfield Junior PGA Championship, July 11-14, at Westfield Group Country Club in Westfield Center, Ohio.
This championship brings the best of the best from across the country. A win at the Westfield puts golfers into elite company with names like Phil Mickelson, Stewart Cink, Jim Furyk, Scott Verplank and Tiger Woods.
Although this will be Rocker’s first trip to a national competition, he is no stranger to winning. To complement his two wins in the Georgia Junior PGA, he has won two tournaments in the GSGA with scores of 67 and 69. His lowest score in competition at Bulloch Academy during the 2007 season was a 68 – good for third place at Waynesboro. He made it to the regional tournament where he finished fourth with a 74. The high school competitions, says Rocker, are a completely different animal from the league tournaments.
“The competition in high school,” he says, “you only have two or three guys that you compete with every time. That’s who you try to beat every time you play high school golf. There are 50 of these guys when you go off and play in these Georgia Junior PGA’s (and other leagues).”
Rocker started training when he was 14. He quickly took over the number one spot on BA’s team, and it was then when he started honing his skills privately.
“I go to Sea Pines (in Hilton Head, S.C.) and get lessons from Rick Barry,” said Rocker. “He’s in the top 20 (instructors) probably in the world. He has just helped my game out so much. Ever since I have been going to him my game has evolved. It’s crazy how much a teacher can help you.”
Just how important is it to Rocker to have his game continue to evolve?
“Some kids start off real good when they are young,” Rocker said. “When they get older their swing doesn’t change. Therefore, they don’t make it anywhere. You have to have a coach to help you out, to go anywhere.”
Matt Yogus can be reached at (912) 489-9404.