Danville Express

Cover Story - December 7, 2007

Teen at the tee

High school golfer Jordan Ontiveros competes with an eye on the LPGA

by Geoff Gillette

The sun is beating down, the wind is in your face, you're 65 yards from the green, and your ball is buried in a sandtrap. What might be a tough day on the green for most people sounds like just another day at the office for up-and-coming golf pro Jordan Ontiveros. The Monte Vista High School junior was one of the leading contenders on the girl's golf squad this year and plans to keep on competing with an eye on making it into the LPGA.

A golfer since the age of 7, the 17-year-old Ontiveros stands a chance of joining the rarified ranks of such young LPGA athletes as Paula Creamer and Michelle Wie.

"When I turn 18, I will be eligible to try out in the qualification round for the LPGA," she said.

A series of tournaments under her belt already and a recent win at the Northern California Junior Amateur Golf Championship are propelling her toward that goal.

Jordan's interest in golf came from her father.

"My dad used to go to the San Ramon Golf Course when we first moved here and he'd bring me along with him," recalled Jordan, who lives in Alamo. "I used to watch him and it seemed really fun so I wanted to do it, too."

Stacy Ontiveros, Jordan's mother, said her daughter showed aptitude for golf from the first time she swung a club.

"We signed her up at the San Ramon Golf Course for a junior champions' course taught by Ernie Barber," she remembered. "The other coaches that helped out kept telling Ernie he needed to see this girl's swing. Finally Ernie watched Jordan hit the ball and he said, 'Are your parents here?' He wanted to meet us and he told us what a talented girl she was and suggested she keep with it."

Stacy Ontiveros said Jordan worked under Barber over the years, but in the beginning she mostly practiced in the summer months.

"We got her into lessons and practice when we could, but when you have other children and you're self-employed it makes it hard to get out there and spend three or four hours," she said.

Jordan competed in her first tournament at the age of 10.

"I was in the East Bay Junior in Alameda. I was playing against kids who played all the time," she said.

Stacy added, "We told her to just go out there and have fun. She was hitting really well but she was four-putting on one hole and just went to pick up the ball."

"The other girls that were playing were shocked," Jordan pointed out, laughing. "They said I couldn't do that. I just told them I was out here to have fun."

Not content to just play with other girls, Jordan joined the Stone Valley Middle School golf team in the sixth grade.

"I was the only girl on the team and I wanted to kick their (the boys) butts. And I did," said Jordan.

Team play continued on into high school where she now plays for Monte Vista as well as the Round Hill Country Club golf team.

In her junior year, Jordan spent the majority of Monte Vista's undefeated season in the No. 2 position behind senior Jane Li. Golf coach Alexander Allen said that changed toward the end of the season.

"When we were getting to the end of the regular season and into post season play, the two girls were very evenly matched," he said. "Jane is a consistent golfer, but Jordan has the most raw talent of any golfer I've ever seen."

Allen pointed to Jordan's arm and forearm strength as a huge asset to her on the golf course.

"She has enough strength in her arms and forearms to chip like the male golfers. To put the right spin on it so it drops down next to the pin and stays there. With female golfers, 99.9 percent of them don't have the talent or the strength to make those shots."

That strength also translates into big drives.

"I'm a long ball hitter," she said. "My drives are right around 260 yards now."

Allen said that ability can actually lead to frustration as they play some shorter courses.

"I know Jordan got mad a few times because she would leave half her clubs in the bag," he said.

As with any young athlete, Allen said Jordan will only continue to improve as she gets older and matures.

"She's still young and still has to learn about the mental side of the game," he said. "Some of it is maturing as a person. Some of it is having a specific routine. There shouldn't be a lot of thinking on the course, because you know exactly how and where each shot should go."

Stacy Ontiveros said she sees some of that youthful brashness on the course.

"She's a John Daly type of player," she explained. "If there's two trees, she'll go right through it. Ninety percent of the time she'll end up with a birdie. And the other times she'll hit the tree and quadruple bogie."

The young brunette laughed and agreed there are still things she needs to learn.

"There's still parts I'm learning, like the mental part," Jordan conceded. "And I need to work on putting. But I think I am getting there."

Besides her high school courses, Jordan spends at least three hours per day on the driving range or golf course practicing her swings. Weekends are taken up traveling around the Western U.S. playing at tournaments. To accommodate the hectic schedule, Jordan splits her time between Monte Vista and Venture High School.

"The kids at Venture are models, actors, Olympiads. They cater to kids who need flexible schedules," Stacy said. "She still has her foot in the door at Monte Vista so she still gets her social life, which she still needs."

How does an amateur athlete with that sort of schedule maintain a social life?

"It's not easy," said Jordan, "I actually have a couple different social circles. There are the girls I meet at the tournaments and golfing. And then there are the kids from school that I hang out with.

"But there are differences. When people go out during the weekends I can't do that. I don't have the luxury because of tournaments and stuff. I have to stay focused. I don't get to see them much in the summer because I'm traveling."

"And," she pointed out with a wry grin, "a boyfriend doesn't really work either."

Jordan said sacrificing some of the social aspects is a tradeoff for doing something she absolutely loves.

"I love the competitiveness of it. I love getting out there and going up against other people," she said. "When I'm in the mix and I know I've got a shot at 1st, 2nd or 3rd, I really want to go for it."

With one year of high school left, the question becomes, what comes next? As a top female golfer, she is already getting offers. Several colleges and universities have begun corresponding with Jordan in the hopes of getting her to come to their school. Jordan said she is torn between going off to college or trying to qualify now for the Ladies Professional Golf Association.

"I am going to play this next year and figure out where my game is," she said. "If it's where I think it needs to be in order to compete at that level, I may try to qualify."

Stacy Ontiveros said she is urging Jordan to go to college first.

"We obviously think that college gives her life experiences," she said, "and playing on some of the NCAA courses will get her ready for that next level of competition."

Jordan got a taste of the LPGA lifestyle last year when she qualified for the Westfield PGA Tournament in Cleveland. Playing for three days against 200 other young women, Jordan just missed making the cut into the finals.

"I learned a lot from that and have a better idea of what I would be up against," she said.

Coach Allen said he is happy that she'll be back on the golf squad at Monte Vista next season and is ready to work with her on improving her game.

"I'd like to make sure her driving is tightened up," he said. "The short game is good but she needs to get a better feel for putting."

He said he hopes to see her move on from there to do great things.

"She's a huge talent and I hope she does something with it."

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