By William Smith
When 15-year-old Burlington resident Mateo Rascon steps up to a golf ball, he typically hits it about 280 to 285 yards with his driver. On a good day, he can hit it 80 yards further.
Rascon has been at a pro-level since he was a preteen, so competing on the Golf Channel for the second time in four years only seems natural. He’s one of the best golfers in the country for his age.
“I love golf. I love everything about it,” Rascon said. “Every course is different. It’s different every time.”
Rascon leaves for Georgia this Friday (April 2). He will compete at the Augusta National Golf Club in the finals of the National Drive, Chip, and Putt Championships. The last time Rascon played on TV, he was an 11-year-old who towered over his mother and many of the golfers around him.
He’s even taller now and considerably less nervous.
“I’m ready for whatever God has in store for me,” said Rascon, a humble Christian hesitant to give himself too much credit.
Far from relying on his natural talent, Rascon has spent the past four years honing his skills through training from the Burlington Golf Club and practices at Burlington High School. He credits the golf club’s PGA professional Joe Butler for much of the recent improvement.
He had a passion for golf since he was 2 years old, according to stories he’s heard from his parents.
“That’s when my parents bought me a set of plastic golf clubs,” he said with a grin. “I wore them out.”
Rascon’s parents purchased him another set, and he promptly wore those out, too. That cycle continued until Mateo finally wrapped his hands around a real club and found out how far he can really hit a ball.
It’s a talent that's useful for far more than golf.
“I really have a love for baseball as well. So baseball and golf are my two sports,” he said.
While the COVID-19 pandemic put a halt to most school athletics last year, Rascon didn’t have to worry about restrictions concerning golf. A rather solitary sport by nature, Rascon and his little brother Tomas — a talented golfer himself — spent their time out on the course rather than cooped-up at home.
“We must have played over 500 holes (in May),” Rascon said while practicing his drive at the Burlington Golf Club.
Rascon qualified for Augusta at a regional event in Colorado, playing the game of his life to earn his spot. His first drive sailed 367 yards (a course record), and his final two rolled past the 300-yard mark. He started the chipping portion of the competition by landing the ball directly in the bottom of the cup.
“When I was done, I had over 200, and I’ve never seen a score over 200 before,” said Rascon, who was interviewed by The Golf Channel after the event.
Rascon placed second in his age group the last time he competed at Augusta in 2017, and in his mind, that still leaves room for improvement. He and fellow youth golfers from around the country planned to play at Augusta last year, but the competition was postponed to this coming weekend due to the pandemic.
“This year, I’m trying to get my driver straightened out. If it is off for the day, my ball goes everywhere,” he said, once again grinning.
But as any true athlete will attest, the quest for betterment has no end date. And Rascon, who is eyeing possible athletic scholarships in the future, is just getting started.
The TV coverage is just a nice bonus.
“I will just use the talents God gave me,” he said.
The competition begins on Sunday, April 4.