We Are Athletes: Student juggles life, machetes and golf

Part One of the three-part series highlighting athletes that go unrecognized and underrepresented in media. Our first column features Calvin Ross, the senior golfer who not only joined the elite ranks this summer at the US Amateur Championship, but is looking to take Texas State golf to the next level.

Calvin Ross swings into the sun at the US Amateur Championship. Photo courtesy of Mackenzie Clark.

Mackenzie Clark

Calvin Ross swings into the sun at the US Amateur Championship. Photo courtesy of Mackenzie Clark.

Andrew Zimmel, Sports Reporter

 

When you think about golfers, you normally would not think about knife juggling, weight training, pageants or advanced mathematics. Meet Calvin Ross, the senior men’s golfer for the Texas State Bobcats and potentially the next great golfer in the Sun Belt Conference.

Ross was the second current Bobcat to compete in the US Amateur Championship in Pinehurst, North Carolina August 12-18.

A lot of people weren’t introduced to him for his accomplishments as a golfer, but for being named “Mr. Bobcat” last fall for his machete juggling routine. Ross represented the golf team in the Delta Zeta-run competition.

“We all made a fool of ourselves up on a stage doing some dancing and stuff like that,” Ross said. “I went on to win it and I juggled in my act. It was like a comedy juggling act. I started by juggling balls, and then I finished it with juggling machetes.”

Ross went on to say machetes weren’t even the most dangerous thing that he’s juggled. Back in his home town in New Brunswick, Canada, Ross has been known to juggle his fair share of torches.

“I’ve juggled torches in the dark,” Ross said. “You can’t see the handle. You can only see the fire, so you have to know where the handle is going to be. Thing is, with the torches, you can see the fire the whole time so you know if you’re going to grab it or not.”

Juggling runs in the family, although his family members have upped their game. Ross’s brother can juggle five balls to Ross’s four, while his father can balance on a unicycle as he juggles.

Like Ross’s juggling talent, his dad had a lot to do with his golf game in an unexpected way. Living in Canada, where hockey ranks near the top for youth sports participation and has the most viewers when it comes to live sports, it only made sense for Ross to have skated early in life.

“I picked up the golf club maybe before I started playing hockey, but golf was just something to do with my dad,” Ross said. “When I was younger, he worked on a golf course and we’d watch it on TV, so my parents got me plastic clubs, and I just hit around the house. Hockey was supposed to be my main sport and I played really competitive hockey growing up, but my golf continued to get better and better.”

Around that same time, Calvin met Makenzi Clark, who would become not only a close friend but also Calvin’s caddy at the US Amateur Championship.

“We played in our first golf tournament together when we were 10,” Clark said. “That following winner we played on the same hockey team. We have really been friends ever since then, practicing together a lot of the time and traveling to tournaments together.”

Eventually, Ross had to make the difficult choice between the two sports.

“By my sophomore year of high school, I had to make a decision on which one I wanted to pursue because if I’m only doing one for half a year, I get rusty the rest the next half of the year,” Ross said. “I played for six or seven months a year playing hockey, then I’d take five or six months off. Well, when everybody I competed against trained at that time, I was on the golf course.”

The training paid off. In August, Calvin was only the second Bobcat ever to qualify for the US Amateur Championship, the premier tournament for young golfers that has had past champions that include Tiger Woods and Jack Nicklaus. Ross qualified for the tournament after he was the medalist at the Ledges Golf Club in York, Maine on July 15. After finishing on top, he and his friend who also doubles as his caddy made the flight from Maine to North Carolina to play in the tournament.

At Pinehurst, Ross didn’t have his best showing. After nine holes, Ross was sitting at +7 and staring at a back nine that would make coming back tricky. Between a weather delay after the ninth hole Ross said he got a text from his swing coach.

“He told me to stay positive and that I was still in it,” Ross said. “all I needed to do was go two under par in my next nine holes to get to +5 and that was where the playoff (to advance) was at.”

After giving himself a look for birdie on both holes coming back and going par on holes 12 and 13, he was just hanging on before becoming aggressive down the stretch.

“So, we are standing at the 18th tee, eight over par. I basically needed to make a one to advance,” Ross said. “Then the horn goes. The play was suspended because of darkness, so I had to come up the next day to play the 18th hole and at that point, I knew there was no chance. It was 450 yards out, uphill and into the wind. I’m not going to make a one.”

Even though Ross missed the cut, the applied math major who graduates this coming May wasn’t downtrodden and came away from the tournament knowing that he could compete with some of the best young golfers in the world.

“I have the game to compete against these guys,” Ross said. “It wasn’t there that day, it could have been there, and if it was there, I would’ve been a top 64 for sure. And then like I said, anything could happen. Just to realize that days like that happen, but I had the ability to be competing against those guys up the top of the leaderboard.”

As the golf season begins for Texas State in the next few weeks, Ross has a chance this season to not only finish as one of the Bobcats best male golfers but also work towards his goal of playing on the pro golf circuit.

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