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Growing up in a golfer’s paradise, Tucson teens form a passion for the game

Gavin Cohen watches a shot.
Gavin Cohen watches a shot.

Tucson is a golfer’s paradise — and not just for retirees and sun-seeking vacationers. Many Tucsonans develop a love of the game at an early age, including several teens in the Jewish community, such as 15-year-old Gavin Cohen.

“Gavin Cohen is a pretty good stick,” says Scott

Gregoire, general manager of Van’s Golf Shop on Grant Road.

Turns out that’s a typical golf understatement for a freshman who’s top of the golf team at Catalina Foothills High School and once even pulled off a hole-in-one at Ventana Canyon, known as a tough course.

Gavin played his first game about five years ago when his father, Russell Cohen, brought the family along on a business trip to Hawaii. “He took me out to the golf course and I fell in love with it,” says Gavin. “I’m a very competitive person. I like to have the pressure on only me. Golf is very individual, so I get to be in control of myself.”

He was playing with his father two years ago when he scored the ace at Ventana Canyon. “That’s one of my best memories of golf ever — so far,” he says.

Gavin has hopes of a golf scholarship to college, perhaps at the University of Arizona. “My entire family has gone there and I’ve always been a huge U of A fan,” he says, explaining that he got the chance for an unofficial visit after talking to the UA coaches at a tournament. “I got a tour of McKale [Memorial Center],” the school’s sports arena, “and got a lot closer with them. It was really fun, really nice.”

Gregoire’s son, Trevor, 15, is also a freshman golfer, but at Canyon Del Oro High School, where he’s ranked number three. The teens know each other from Temple Emanu-El as well as from the links.

Trevor started playing at age six after watching his father play, and says he usually manages to beat his father at the game. For his part, Gregoire acknowledges that golf is “a very humbling game,” especially for casual players like him. “There are days you go out and you think, man, this is really easy, and then next time you go out, you’re wondering, ‘What happened to that guy who hit the ball last time?’”

Trevor notes that during the high school golf season, which ended in October, local high schools play a tournament every week. Every other week, there’s a game in Phoenix against out-of-state players.

Trevor also has his eye on a golf scholarship. “And then, if it takes me somewhere else, farther, that’s what I want to do.”

Aside from high school tournaments, he also plays in the Southern Arizona Junior Golf Association and Ricky Rarick Junior Golf competitions. “That helps me practice and get ready for the big tournaments,” he says.

Ty Goode during a Catalina Foothills High School match against Salpointe Catholic High School at the Randolph North golf course.
Ty Goode during a Catalina Foothills High School match against Salpointe Catholic High School at the Randolph North golf course.

Also part of the Temple Emanu-El teen golf crowd are Charlie Goode and his brother, Ty, and their cousin Jacob Goode.

Charlie, 17, was profiled in the AJP in 2009 after he golfed 100 holes in one day to raise money for his Bar Mitzvah

project, Andy’s Fund, which was

inspired by an autistic friend (see]. He raised over $21,000 for autism treatment at Rogers Memorial Hospital in Oconomowoc, Wis., with many of the donations coming in once word got out about his feat. Goode won a $1,000 college scholarship from Kohl’s Department Stores for that effort.

A senior at Catalina Foothills, Charlie has been one of the school’s top players, but says for now, he’s finished playing golf competitively. Looking forward to studying business at Arizona State University, he says, “I just play for fun once in a while. I might take it up later.”

Ty, 15, a freshman at Catalina Foot­hills, ended the 2013 season as the team’s number two player.

“My dad is a big golfer and he used to take me out, so he got me interested,” says Ty, who’s been golfing since he was eight or nine years old. His father, Kevin Goode, used to own a company that sold new and recycled golf balls.

Ty would like to play at the college level and plans to try for a golf scholarship. As a freshman, he hasn’t set his sights on any particular school yet.

Jacob, 12, who will become a Bar Mitzvah next month, is a student at Esperero Canyon Middle School. He’s been playing since he was 4, he told the AJP, crediting his grandfather, Michael Goode, and his father, Joel Goode, for getting him interested in the sport.

Although there is a 12-13 age group in the junior tournaments, Jacob prefers to play up in the 14- and 15-year-old division, with his cousin Ty. “They play better courses,” Jacob explains, adding that he holds his own in the middle of the field.

Like many golfers, Jacob appreciates that the sport places more emphasis on the individual than the team. “Basically it’s all me, and I’m the one who makes the decisions,” he says.