The casual observer could be forgiven to think that playing golf was always in Jaden Chavez’s future.
Easy mistake to make as his father, Paul Chavez, has been the golf coach at Odessa College for the better part of two decades.
Not true, however, says the Permian senior.
“I played a lot of baseball until the eighth grade,” Jaden Chavez said. “I didn’t play much golf up until then.
“Oh, I was around it, of course, and played some little tournaments when I was younger. But my dad wasn’t pushing me to play golf and I was playing a lot of baseball.”
So what changed for Chavez?
Well, he did.
A growth spurt, combined with a year of home schooling, allowed Chavez to reacquaint himself with the game.
“Maybe I grew a little and started to hit the ball pretty good and then I decided that I just wanted to get good at it,” Chavez said. “And I also knew that if I wanted to have a chance to play in college, it wasn’t going to be in baseball because I wasn’t very big and I’m still not that tall.
“So I thought I had a better chance of playing college golf, so I sat down and talked about it with my parents and made the decision to focus on getting better at golf.”
Practicing every day alongside some of his father’s teams at Odessa College, the younger Chavez quickly developed a work ethic and single-mindedness that surprised even his dad.
Once that he knew his son was serious about the game, Paul Chavez began taking him to a swing coach in Arizona to break Jaden’s game down to the basics and give him things to work on when he got back home.
Annual trips that continue each summer to this day.
“I think one of the things that really helped him was learning how to practice properly,” Paul Chavez said. “He was with me every day that year, out there with the team and he was challenging himself to be like one of the guys because he didn’t want to embarrass himself.
“We would go to tournaments and he was shooting 87, 88 and he would be frustrated. Then he just went out and suddenly he was shooting in the 70s and had very few rounds in the 80s after that.”
With the lower scores came that confidence in his game, which in turn resulted in even better golf.
Scores that created a reputation as he entered high school and joined the Permian varsity program as a freshman.
He averaged 77 shots per round his first year with the Panthers, 75 during his sophomore season and 73 when he was a junior.
His totals for his senior season aren’t quite complete as he has two more rounds to play Monday and Tuesday at the UIL Class 6A State Championships at Legacy Hills Golf Club in Georgetown.
Chavez’s path to the state tournament was exciting, to say that least, as he survived a pair of playoffs to earn one of the coveted berths.
First was a victory on the first playoff hole to win the District 2-6A individual title, defeating Brian Boles of Wolfforth Frenship.
“Jaden goes out in the playoff and hits his approach shot to about 15 feet, grabs his putter and says ‘I got this coach’,” Permian boys coach Doak Huddleston said. “I just smiled at him and said ‘if anyone can do it you can,’ and he did.
“He’s just got this calmness and confidence about him, but he’s still very humble and that’s something he gets from his parents. He expects to succeed, but he’s very gracious and just goes with what he needs to do.”
What Chavez needed to do next was perform a recovery shot that would make Phil Mickelson proud to keep his state tournament hopes alive.
Battling weather, and some of the top Class 6A golfers in the state, for two days at the Region I-6A Championships in Grand Prairie, Chavez played some of his best golf at the right time.
“I think I hit 17 greens (in regulation) the second day,” he said. “I played better than I did at district.
“I posted early but I knew that I was going to be in a playoff and just prepared myself for that. It ended up being three of us for two spots.”
On the fourth playoff hole, Chavez said “I hit a decent shot, but pushed it a little and it hit the cart path and found some trees.”
A little more than that, according to Paul Chavez: “He hits it into a group of trees and he could go low, but the curb for the cart path is in his way and the pin is close, so he has short-sided himself.
“But Jaden has never met a shot he can’t hit and he’s been preparing himself for that moment right there since he started playing again. I knew he was going to go for it, but we were all like ‘is he really going to hit that flop?’ ”
Yes, he was.
“Might be the best shot I’ve ever seen in that situation,” Huddleston said. “And I’ve seen a lot of golf.
“He’s not awed. I talked to him about his options and he just smiled and said he was going over the trees. No big deal, just like Phil Mickelson.”
But it was a very big deal, though Chavez, who earlier this year fulfilled a dream when he signed to play Division I golf at UTEP, was a little more casual in recalling the shot.
“I just hit it as hard as I could,” he said. “Got it to six feet and made the birdie putt.”