By Kelley Carlson
A recent achievement has put young golfer Courtney Hooton on par with the best junior golfers in San Diego history.
Courtney, a senior at The Bishop’s School in La Jolla, has won the San Diego Junior Golf Association’s Championship Division for the third consecutive year, a feat only previously accomplished by Phil Mickelson, Christy Erb and Mike Riley.
The title is the 17-year-old’s ninth consecutive age class triumph with the association — something that no one else has achieved in its 59-year history, according to Courtney’s father, Claude Hooton.
“It’s very exciting for me,” Courtney said. “I take each victory in stride. It’s such an integral part of my golf career.”
The Del Mar resident has been playing for more than a dozen years, first swinging a golf club at age 5. She was introduced to the sport by her grandparents Libby and Wally Frank, who lived in Rancho Santa Fe. They often took Courtney and her sisters, Libby and Chloe Belle, to the Lomas Santa Fe Executive Golf Course.
Courtney found herself drawn to the sport, as she enjoyed spending time with her family and being outside. The sisters always encouraged one another and kept each other on their toes at all times, she noted.
Since she first started playing in tournaments at age 6, Courtney has built quite a resume. She has won more than 250 events, including the U.S. Kids Golf Teen World Championship in 2007, and two American Junior Golf Association tournaments — the 2010 Lessings Classic and the 2011 Rochester Open, both in New York. In addition, Courtney has qualified twice for the U.S. Women’s Amateur Championship, and a record 12 consecutive years for the Callaway Junior World Championship.
Competitions take Courtney all over the country — “from Iowa to New York — it’s crazy,” she said. Most of them are held during the summer, when the teen plays multiple tournaments each week. Quite a few are held in the San Diego area throughout the year, and Courtney says she averages about one event a month when school is in session.
The busy schedule is necessary to receive national recognition, she said.
“You need to be in a competitive atmosphere to keep your game up,” Courtney said. “Golf is truly a year-round sport.”
But academics come first, she emphasized, especially at The Bishop’s School, which is well-known for its rigorous program.
“My parents instilled in us that [academics is] a priority,” Courtney said, and added that she needs to have something to fall back on in case golf doesn’t pan out.
So far, Courtney appears to have managed to juggle golf and academics just fine, sporting a 4.15 GPA.
“I’ve found that time management is important,” she said, and noted that she receives support from her teachers.
Courtney also has played for Bishop’s golf team since ninth grade.
“It’s really fun,” she said. “Being on a team is so different. Golf is an individual sport ... (being part of a team) is a whole new dynamic.”
However, the senior primarily plays in tournaments not affiliated with the school.
When preparing for an event, Courtney said she doesn’t really have a routine.
“I go in and just be calm, say a couple prayers,” she said. “With golf, you never know what’s going to happen.”
Outside of golf, Courtney enjoys surfing and playing volleyball, and she has been a member of her school’s cross country and basketball teams.
She has also dabbled in journalism, having served as fashion editor of Golfer Girl Magazine. It was a family affair, as dad Claude served as publisher, while sister Libby was editor in chief and Chloe Belle held the title of fashion director. Mom, Michelle, also served as advertising manager. The magazine was founded in 2006, and the first issue was published in spring 2007. The final printed issue went out in fall 2008, and a skeleton website is still available for people to view old issues, at
“It was a fun experience for me,” Courtney said. “Unfortunately, it ended in the recession. But it was not for a lack of demand.”
At its peak, the magazine had a circulation of 10,000, with subscribers in all 50 states, Mexico and Canada.
For the immediate future, Courtney has her sights set on collegiate golf. She just signed with Harvard, and will start next fall as a member of the class of 2016.
She will be the second Hooton sister to play at that level, as Libby, 20, is on the team at the University of Pennsylvania. Libby and Courtney are trying to persuade Chloe Belle to follow in their footsteps, although the 15-year-old Bishop’s freshman is not playing golf as often as she used to.
“She’s getting into rowing,” Courtney said.
Meanwhile, “I’m counting down the hours (until Harvard),” she said. “It’s been a dream of mine as long as I can remember. ... Every day, I have to pinch myself.”
Courtney said she is contemplating the study of government, “but we’ll see.”
“I feel blessed to have the career I’ve had, and I enjoy every second,” she said.