About six years ago, 10-year-old Tanner Owen stood beside the practice range at Willow Creek Golf Club, a place where he’s hit thousands upon thousands of practice shots, and watched a grown man hit balls like he’d never seen before. The man was big, and he swung left-handed, just like Owen. The man pounded 3-iron after 3-iron over the net, a feat Owen had only seen the biggest drivers achieve.
Last month, Owen, now 16, moved into fourth position in the North Carolina Junior Boys Rankings. He is one of seven left-handers – five of whom are from the Triad area – among the Top 50 in the rankings. Also last month, that man from the driving range, Bubba Watson, became the fifth Masters champion in the past 10 years to swing left-handed.
Watson, who played at Willow Creek for several years, is hardly the first to prove that, yes, left-handers can play this game, too. But his name adds another to the list, and his performance caused more than a few chests to swell among North Carolina’s junior golfers. Owen, a sophomore at Bishop McGuinness, is just the top name on the latest boys’ rankings.
Oak Ridge’s Drew Johnson (No. 13), Kernersville’s Jonathan Dilanni (16), Burlington’s William Register (27), and Dobson’s Taylor Coalson (41) all are ranked in the top 50, and all are left-handed. All finished in the top 10 in their respective high school state championships last year, and all have sights set on college golf. Owen has verbally committed to Wake Forest. Dilanni, a senior at Westchester Country Day, will play at Purdue next year; and Taylor Coalson, a senior at North Surry, is headed to UNC-Greensboro.