It took a few years for Joseph Del Fierro to realize what kind of future his son Jason had in golf.
Jason picked up the game of golf at 8 years old and within a year he began winning tournaments. It was when he sank a hole-in-one, beat his coach and won a First Tee Tournament at age 10 that his dad realized Jason had a special skill.
"I was amazed with how quick he got so good," Joseph said. "After he won [the First Tee Tournament] I thought I should get serious about his golf."
Jason, who's now 12, will be looking to add another trophy to his mantle this week when he competes in the three-round Callaway Junior World Golf Championships 11-12 boys' division at the par-72 Sycuan Resort in El Cajon as a member of the Tigers Woods Foundation's Junior National Golf Team, which he was notified he qualified for in early May. The tournament begins Tuesday and ends Thursday.
"I was really happy at first when I heard that I made the team, but then I realized I had to work really hard to show to them that I actually could play really well," Del Fierro said.
It was Jason's performance in the Tiger Woods Foundation's second annual Club Championship at Anaheim's Dad Miller Golf Course Jan. 3 that helped earn him a spot on the squad. Jason came out on top of the elementary division when he carded a one-under-par 70.
"It kind of was one of my best days golfing because I was new to the Tiger Woods Foundation," Jason said. "I didn't really know any of the other players so I didn't know what I was going up against, and I was pretty nervous. As we played through the second and third holes, I started feeling really good about it and it just kept growing."
Jason hopes for a similar performance in the Junior World Golf Championships with the Foundation's Junior National team. Members of the squad are required to maintain a minimum cumulative grade-point average of 3.2 or higher, complete a minimum of 40 hours of community/volunteer service per year and have "an active competitive tournament history."
"As far as I know, it sounds like it takes a lot to get on that team, as far as performing academically and doing well in golf," said Jason Puterbaugh, who coaches Jason at the Aviara Golf Academy in San Diego. "It has a pretty prestigious name on it."
Jason passed all three criteria with flying colors. The sixth-grader finished the year with straight As at La Cañada Elementary, where he also began an inventor's group. He also volunteers at St. Bede the Venerable Catholic Church.
As far as golf goes, Puterbaugh said it's Jason's first swing off the tee that has always given him an advantage over the competition.
"It's mainly been his short game that has seen a lot of improvement lately," Puterbaugh said. "He is very good mentally, a very nice kid and is always positive. He really loves golf."
Jason's goal is to place top five at the Callaway Junior World Golf Championships, which will qualify him for the 2013 tournament.
"Hopefully Jason will do well this July," Joseph said. "We are up against the best of the world, this isn't a joke."
Eventually, Del Fierro wants to earn a college scholarship in golf — hopefully to UCLA, USC or Stanford — and pursue a professional career or become a coach.
"I just want to support him in whatever he wants to do," Joseph said. "I am unlimited in support to his potential because you never know what kids can do. It's amazing what they can do — it's unbelievable. I can't hit a golf ball myself."Copyright © 2015, Los Angeles Times