Before finishing the first quarter of his eighth-grade year at Austin Middle School, Blake Stamper won the Kentucky Junior PGA Fall Series Championship and was named Player of the Year. He had four top finishes with three first places and one second place.
“It was almost as good as I could have done,” Stamper said.
During the summer months, he placed fifth out of about 100 golfers in the Kentucky Junior PGA Summer Series. Most of the golfers in the series are from Indiana, Kentucky, Illinois, and Ohio.
“I hope to win the Summer Series,” Stamper said.
Stamper’s route to golf was an untraditional one. He did not start playing every day since he was a preschooler. In fact, he has only been focusing on the game in the last two years. Before that, Stamper’s exposure to golf was playing with a plastic golf set of balls and clubs as a toddler.
“Somehow he found his way back to golf,” said Louise Stamper, Blake’s mother and a third-grade teacher at Austin Elementary School.
Before finding his place on the golf course, Blake Stamper focused on baseball. He played the sport every year, but he was not finding the joy in playing in the sport.
“I kind of got burnt out,” Stamper said.
Then, Stamper’s dad, Jeff, took him out on the golf course.
“I went out on the course with my dad. I got hooked there,” Blake Stamper said.
Stamper soon realized there was more to golf than just swinging a club or hitting balls. He found competition in golf. He found purpose in the game.
“There’s a large plethora of competition,” Stamper said. “It is a mental game. Whether you took a one or a 10, you should have the same exact expression.”
The game is also a physical game, Stamper said, with 18 holes burning about 2,500 calories. Students do not drive golf carts or have caddies — they walk the course carrying their clubs to each hole.
To help him grow and develop in his game, Stamper gathered a support group of professionals and coaches. Each week, Stamper works with a swing coach, Brad Morrow, to improve his golf game.
“He’s helped me so much. He’s skyrocketed my game,” Stamper said.
After the first few lessons, Stamper and his family noticed golf might be a perfect fit.
“I was developing very quickly,” Stamper said. “I probably had a little natural talent.”
Stamper joined the Austin Middle School golf team, and he quickly found encouragement and instruction from his coach, Jami Parks.
“He follows my record. There’s nothing about my golf game he doesn’t know,” Stamper said.
While Parks is following Stamper’s record to help Stamper improve his game, Stamper is chasing the records set by Austin High School 1998 graduate Jason Bukowski, who later went to play golf at Purdue University. While at AHS, Bukowski is a four-year letter winner and the golf team’s Most Valuable Player. Bukowski is a two-time sectional champion and a four-time MVP.
On the course, Stamper has found help from Justin Holland, owner of Westwood Golf Course in Scottsburg. The advice Holland, who is a Professional Golf Association of America professional, gives Stamper has improved Stamper’s game. Stamper said Holland also provides students an opportunity to play at Westwood for a flat fee pass during the summer months. This opportunity helps Stamper to work on his game.
“He’s really helpful,” Stamper said. “He lets our golf team come and go.”
Still, it was not until Stamper and his family walked through a golf expo in Louisville that they learned about the Kentucky PGA. There, he met Chris Redle, director of junior programs at PGA Kentucky and a PGA of America professional.
“Me and Dad thought it would be something I’d be interested in,” Stamper said.
Stamper also worked with Chris Curry, who coordinates the PGA Junior League at Champions Pointe Golf Course in Sellersburg.
“He gave me a good foundation,” Stamper said.
From that point, he started playing the PGA Junior League series and went to golf camp this summer at Pinehurst, NC. There, he was able to receive exposure to colleges while learning about the game. He also received an invitation to Clemson’s golf camp.
“We learned a lot, not just me, but my mom and dad as well,” Stamper said.
Stamper hopes more students will play golf. The Austin parents established a booster club at the middle school last year to help defray the cost of golf.
“Golf can be an expensive sport,” Jeff Stamper said. “I would hate to see kids not play because of a financial need.”