Someone once accused Terrell Chriss of wasting his body. Short but muscular, Chriss looks more like a standout football or basketball player—sports he used to play and excel at—than a golfer. But golf is his true love.
"Just talking to friends or peers, they're like, 'What are you doing playing golf? You should be playing basketball or football, more athletic sports,'" Chriss says. "But I always want to try and put myself out there."
Chriss, a sophomore at Adolfo Camarillo High School in Camarillo, California, already has one varsity season under his belt. He not only made his school's top squad as a freshman, he was called the "foundation" of it by the local paper. Shooting 80 or lower in five of his final six rounds last season certainly helped him earn that distinction.
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Performing on the links is something Chriss has been doing his whole life. His father Tony, an avid golfer himself, first stuck a club in Chriss's hands when his son was only two years old. By age three, Chriss was joining his dad at the driving range, often making his father laugh by trying to swing clubs that were longer than he was tall. Eventually, the younger Chriss figured out how to make solid contact, and make it consistently.
The early lessons at the driving range paid off when Chriss entered his first official tournament at age 12. He quickly realized he could drive the ball much farther than his peers.
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"I noticed I was always hitting the ball last out of the fairways," Chriss says. "All the other kids were 10 or 15 yards behind me. I was in shock because I'd only played with my dad before that, and he could hit way ahead of me."
On the first day of the two-day tournament, Chriss shot a 75. The next day he faltered under pressure. But instead of making him feel disappointed, the experience changed his perspective in a way that helps him win matches today.
"I started loving the pressure and the feel of the competition," Chriss says.
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After that first tournament, Chriss dedicated himself to golf. By the time he reached high school, he had left basketball and football behind to focus solely on the sport. He spends two to three hours on golf every day, either at the driving range, watching tape of his swing and looking for ways to improve it, or working on his short game.
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The steady work has paid major dividends. Now 15, Chriss has added over 100 yards to his drive since that first tournament. He now averages 280 yards off the tee. By the end of his freshman season, he had elevated himself from the fourth spot on his golf team to number one.
Chriss wants to take the golf world by storm, just like his favorite player once did.
"I always idolized Tiger Woods," he says. "The way he played, he kept himself composed. He always hit the ball so far and straight down the fairway. He would intimidate other players with his style of play and his aggressiveness. I think I've always aspired to be the same type of player he is."
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Chriss's goal for his upcoming sophomore season is to reach the California Interscholastic Federation Golf Championships, an end-of-season tournament that pits the best golfers from California high schools against each other.
"I want to test myself against the best," Chriss says. "I want to see how well I compare to them."
Based on his build, Chriss is definitely strong enough to hang with the top young players in his state. And given all of the effort he's putting in to elevate his game, odds are that come tourney time next year, his performance on the links will be rewarded.
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