By Gideon Rubin
Aaron Strockis may not be Torrey Pines High’s most talented golfer, and he’s definitely not the most experienced.
But it’s hard to imagine anybody on the team who can match his determination.
Strockis was a latecomer to the sport. He didn’t even start taking lessons until he was in eighth grade, when he got swept up in the excitement surrounding Torrey Pines Golf Course playing host to the 2008 U.S. Open.
He took his energy, enthusiasm, and some of the athletic skill he developed playing Little League to his new venture.
“The determination is incredible,” Drake said. “He set a goal for himself and the goal wasn’t just to make the team, the goal was to make the postseason and he did everything he could do to achieve it.”
With less than a year of lessons under his belt, Strockis went out for the intensely competitive Falcons team his freshman year and missed the cut by one stroke.
He continued working on his game but again missed the cut by the same margin his sophomore year.
“You have to draw the line somewhere and, unfortunately, he was on the other side of the line,” Torrey Pines coach Chris Drake said.
Earlier this year, Strockis didn’t just cross the line, he obliterated it.
On a team of over 20 golfers, he surpassed more established teammates, some of whom have since committed to Division I colleges, on his way to becoming among the top six golfers on one of the state’s most perennially dominant programs.
Strockis believes his baseball background benefitted his golf game.
“Some of the athletic moves are similar,” Strockis said. “It was an easier transition for me, comparatively speaking, than if I’d played football or soccer or something like that.”
He acknowledged some discouragement at first.
“I tried to keep it in perspective because I knew how talented a team it was,” Strockis said. “I took it as challenge. I just tried to use it to motivate me I guess.”
Strockis’ work ethic and determination earned him the respect of teammates and coaches.
“He’s an incredibly hard worker,” Drake said. “He’s just a great kid.”
Strockis, who’ll be a senior later this year, is hopeful that he’ll land at a Division I college program. He figures to attract interest from college scouts in the coming months and projects to play at the Division I level, Drake said.
“He’s going to be a big contributor next year and he’s going to make some college coach who takes him look like genius,” Drake said.
His status among the team’s top six golfers qualified him for postseason team play. He competed in the state championships at San Gabriel Country Club in June, an event that helped get the unheralded rising star some exposure.
“He’s not super highly ranked and he doesn’t play a lot of junior tournaments, but he’s starting to do more of that,” Drake said.
“Somebody’s going to see him and he’s got a great swing. He’s only going to get better.”
Strockis has played at some big tournaments this summer.
Earlier this summer, he competed among an elite international field of 200 golfers at the Callaway Junior World Golf championship, and placed third out of a field of 110 at the San Diego Junior Masters.
But making the Torrey Pines team was just the first step. Strockis continued working on his game, pushing himself beyond his initial goal.
“You don’t want to just be the guy who makes the team, you want to step up and contribute to the team,” Strockis said.
Strockis cited private coaching as a key factor in his development, but said that being around some of the state’s most competitive individual golfers playing at Torrey Pines rubbed off on him.
“It was a huge part,” Strockis said. “The team has been completely instrumental as far as my development as a player.”
He credits teammates Bobby Gojuangco and Danny Ochoa with helping him understand some of the intangibles of playing competitive golf, such as how to prepare and maintain an even keel on the golf course.
And although he admits it wasn’t easy at first, he’s grateful to have done things the hard way in establishing himself as a player who belongs at Torrey Pines.
“It definitely was hard at first just coming into a program like this,” Strockis said.
“It was intimidating at first, but it was just a matter of letting it motivate me instead of letting it frustrate me,” Strockis said. “It actually helped me.”