Saturday, March 24, 2018

Berkeley Prep’s Alex Ogle a talented tween on the green

PALM HARBOR ó It all started on March 26, 2007. Alex Ogle, celebrating his second birthday, gets ready to open presents. A rectangular box from his St. Petersburg neighbors, Eric and Barb Bennett, sits on the tile floor of the family room.

Little Alex rips off the wrapping paper and sees a picture of red plastic Fisher Price golf clubs. He tears into the box, grabs the driver and begins hitting whiffle balls off the walls and sliding glass door. His left-handed swing is nearly flawless.

He hasnít stopped swinging a golf club since.

"He just has this singular focus," said his father, Jonathan. "He always has."

From the very first swing in the family room, Jonathan and Cathy Ogle realized they had a prodigy on their hands. Thatís all well and good. What parents wouldnít want a prodigy? But neither knew a thing about golf. They never played. Never watched it on television. Barely knew the difference between a 5-iron and a tire iron.

"We didnít even know we had the Golf Channel," Cathy Ogle said. "We were channel surfing when he was 2 and he said, ĎStop!í He looked at us and said, ĎIím going to be the best golfer in the world.í Iím thinking, ĎIs there a manual for this?í?"

Cathy is a kindergarten teacher at Lake St. George Elementary School in Palm Harbor. Jonathan is a visual arts instructor for Pinellas County Schools. They had to write their own manual to ensure Alex got the maximum exposure to golf.

On Christmas 2005, Alex got his first set of real golf clubs. At 3 years old he started taking lessons. When he was 4 he joined the Premier Junior Tour as the youngest member ever. In his first tournament he shot 96 for 18 holes at East Lake Woodlands Golf Course and finished second in the 6-and-under age group. Later that year he won his first tournament by shooting a 9-hole score of 34 at Twin Brooks Golf Course.

When he was 7, he won 21 straight junior golf tournaments. In one tournament he eagled two straight holes, earning the nickname Alex "Eagle" Ogle.

"I remember seeing Bobby Jonesí swing (on the Golf Channel)," said Alex, now 12. "I loved that swing. I would practice it and practice it and practice it. I really believe practice makes perfect."

So much so that he wore out several practice nets set up in his front yard.

Not only did the Ogles start learning about golf, they also found out how expensive and time consuming it can be. Tournaments, which are just about every weekend, have entry fees. Coaches cost money. Golf equipment isnít cheap.

They sold their home in St. Petersburg and moved into a fixer-upper in Lansbrook just off the 10th hole. Alex is the Ogleís only child, which wasnít the original plan.

"Heís the only one," Cathy said. "Do you know how expensive golf is?

"This is a life he has chosen and we are doing everything possible. Birthdays, what does he ask for from family and friends? Golf balls, money for tournaments, stuff like that. Thatís all he wants. Letís see how far you can get with two teachers."

Jonathan is Alexís caddy in tournaments, which is both good and bad.

"All the other caddy dads are telling their kids where the putt breaks and Iím like, ĎAlex, I canít help you here,í?" Jonathan said. "I donít know how to read greens. But I think that made him a better player."

Jonathan has been with Alex every step of the way. He created a website,, which lists all of his accomplishments and videos. To date he has played in 243 tournaments and won 151.

Last year, the Ogles decided to enroll Alex at Berkeley Prep when he was not accepted into East Lake Middle Schoolís Academy of Engineering. They receive some financial assistance and get help from family and friends.

As a sixth grader, Ogle made the Berkeley Prep varsity golf team. He did not qualify for the state tournament, but did have his first hole-in-one in the region tournament.

This year, Ogle shot 75 at regionals and won a playoff to earn a spot in the Class A state tournament, which begins Tuesday at the Mission Inn and Resort in Howey-in-the-Hills. He is one of the youngest players to qualify for a high school state tournament.

"Ninety-nine percent of the time he is very consistent," Bucs coach Tom Shea said. "Every once in awhile he thinks heís Phil Mickelson and tries to hit the near impossible shot through a 2-inch gap. But heís a much smarter player now and heís only going to get better and better."

Ogle has no problem playing against older golfers. Heís done it all of his short life. But he admits high school was a bit of a change.

"I was just so nervous last year," Ogle said. "I really didnít know what was going on. This year I felt more relaxed. I donít hit it as far as they do but my putting and chipping makes up for it."

The Oglesí house is filled with trophies, medals and signed golf balls from players like Bubba Watson, Matt Kuchar and Chi Chi Rodriguez. There is a strip of turf in the living room so Alex can practice putting at night or when itís raining. The curtain in his bedroom is green, the same color as the jacket the Masterís champion wears.

Ogle may make it to Augusta one day, but until then there will be hundreds more tournaments and even more practice rounds.

"I love playing and I love practicing," Alex Ogle said. "Golf is my main thing and I want to be the best I can be."

Softball: Mitchell turns things around

Softball: Mitchell turns things around

CLEARWATER — The offense was opportunistic Friday, but that has been the case a lot lately.Mitchell scored key runs late and got contributions from everyone. Add pitching that was effective and you have a 4-3 victory in 10 innings over Chamberl...
Published: 03/24/18

Land OíLakes pitches, hits way to Farm Bureau Classic championship

BROOKSVILLE — The game plan for Land O'Lakes is pretty simple. The Gators rely on their pitching and defense, and hope they can score enough runs to win.That strategy worked during the Farm Bureau Classic this week, especially in the final agai...
Published: 03/23/18

High school scoreboard for March 23

Fridayís scoreboardSoftballSpringstead 2, Crystal River 1
Published: 03/23/18
Riverview retires softball jerseys of Adrienne Clark and Angela Slater

Riverview retires softball jerseys of Adrienne Clark and Angela Slater

Riverview held a ceremony before Thursday's softball game against Newsome to retire the jerseys of former standout Adrienne Clark (No. 7) and former coach Angela Slater (No. 3).Clark played on the Sharks' 2000 state championship team. She went on to ...
Published: 03/23/18
Gibbs grad Barry Brown Jr. delivers for Kansas State

Gibbs grad Barry Brown Jr. delivers for Kansas State

Barry Brown Jr. had the ball in his hands with 21 seconds left. The Kansas State guard saw the lane open up, drove to the basket and lofted a layup past the outstretch arms of 6-foot-7 Kentucky forward PJ Washington.There was still time left, but tha...
Published: 03/23/18

Hernando holds on to defeat Fivay in Farm Bureau Classic semifinal

BROOKSVILLE — Hernando survived a nerve-racking seventh inning to defeat Fivay 7-6 in the Farm Bureau Classic semifinals Thursday night. The Leopards took a three-run lead into the top of the seventh inning and looked to be in control...
Published: 03/22/18

High school scoreboard for March 22

Thursdayís scoreboardSoftballAdmiral Farragut 4, Bradenton-Saint Stephenís 0BaseballCalvary Chr. 11, Dunedin 0Boys tennisClearwater Central Catholic 4, Cambridge Christian 3Girls tennisCambridge Chr. 4, Clearwater Central Catholic 3...
Published: 03/22/18
Big 12 now a premier landing spot for local basketball players

Big 12 now a premier landing spot for local basketball players

Five years ago, Justin Gray strongly considered committing to Butler. Those plans were derailed when Brad Stevens left to become the Boston Celtics coach.Gray still had interest from other programs, including Harvard, UCF and Virginia Commonwealth.Mo...
Published: 03/22/18

High school scoreboard for March 21

Wednesdayís scoreboardSoftballBoca Ciega 3, Osceola 2
Published: 03/21/18
Barry Brown Jr., Kevin Knox II square off in Sweet 16

Barry Brown Jr., Kevin Knox II square off in Sweet 16

Kansas State's Barry Brown Jr. and Kentucky's Kevin Knox II are former local stars who each led their high school programs to state semifinal appearances.Brown did it with Gibbs in 2015. Knox led Tampa Catholic on two straight trips (2016-17).Now, th...
Published: 03/21/18