Asking for God's help in a quick prayer, Javon Trout stepped to the first tee at the Tri-State Junior PGA tournament last week at Butler's Golf Course in Elizabeth.
Playing in the boys 15-16 grouping, Trout, a 16-year-old rising junior at Hempfield Area Senior High School, ripped a perfect drive down the middle of the fairway.
"I knew it was going to be a good day," said the Fort Allen Township resident, who went on to shoot a 1-under-par round of 71 for the one-day event.
That score was the best round compiled at the tournament, which is sponsored by King's Family Restaurants and offers young golfers a chance to compete on championship-level courses during the summer months.
Trout competed this week at another stop on the summer-long tour at Glengarry Golf Links in Latrobe. He shot a 4-over round of 74 on a course where he fired a 67 last year at another Tri-State event.
"I struggled on the front nine and shot a 39, but I came back and shot a 35 to finish in a tie for third," he said. "But I dropped to fifth when I lost on a scorecard playoff."
Trout said a scorecard playoff means the competitors' scores on the first three holes were compiled, and the best score was awarded third place.
"I was having a tough time on those first three holes," he said.
Hempfield Area coach Brian Spang believes Trout's effort at Butler's Golf Course could mean good things for the Spartans this season.
"He probably was among my top three golfers last year, but we had a team where we had about six players grouped together," said Spang, who is entering his ninth season as the Spartans' coach. "We did graduate six seniors last year, but Javon was part of a four-man team that I took to Blue Ridge Country Club [in Harrisburg]. There were 40 teams there, and we finished second."
Trout's performance last week gives coach and athlete some good feelings as the season is rapidly approaching.
What was particularly telling was Trout's round of 34 on the back nine that was three strokes better than his effort on the front nine.
"[On the back nine], I started to strike the ball much better," he said. "I was getting close to the pins, and I was making my putts."
Trout, who said he must improve his game off the tee and on the green, finished his round with 31 putts.
"That tells me right there he's been working on his putting," Spang said. "That's a good accomplishment, and that's very encouraging to me."
Trout's score was one stroke better than the score of 72 that was posted by Max Kaminsky of White Oak and Jordan Kirsch of Hollidaysburg in the 17-18 age grouping.
"It felt good to have the lowest score in the field," he said. "That day, I hit quality shots and kept my head in the game. I just grinded it out and never gave up."
Trout picked up a golf club for the first time when he was 4 years old and he played in his first tournament when he was 5.
"Those events were challenging, and when I started, I was the youngest kid there," he said. "It was challenging, but I like challenges."
He has displayed talent not just in golf, but also in bowling as a member of the Spartans' team.
"I've bowled two perfect games," he said. "Both of them were in the Saturday morning bowling league and were sanctioned by the U.S. Bowling Congress. And, I think both sports are related in that you have to have a positive mind and be focused. I put a lot of practice into both sports."
Spang has high hopes for Trout this season.
"This tournament victory puts my mind at ease that he's on the right track," he said. "He's going to be playing all summer, and that shows he's working on his competitive edge and is ready to go."
Trout is focused on his high school team for the next two seasons, but he's also looking forward to the next level.
"I'd like to study engineering, play golf and bowl in college," he said. "We're going to have a young golf team, and if we made it to the [WPIAL team] finals, I'd be happy."
Don't bet against Trout. In a dual match last year, he made a hole in one that turned a dual match against Greensburg Salem in the Spartans' favor. Other accolades might be in the equation this year, too.