HERMISTON — There are two things you should know about Colby Lerten. He’s a heck of a golfer for being just 12 years old, and he has a passion for helping others.
Lerten, who will start sixth grade at Sandstone Middle School in Hermiston next week, won an Oregon Golf Association junior tournament at Wildhorse Golf Course in Pendleton on Aug. 9. The following day, he won another OGA junior event at La Grande.
His luck ran out Aug. 13 in The Dalles, finishing third to a pair of golfers a year older.
But his performance at the first two events qualified him for the Charlotte Tournament of Champions on Sept. 21 at Creekside Golf Club in Salem. It will be his second trip to the event.
“If you win one of the qualifiers, you get to go play for a trophy and be the best in the state,” Lerten said. “I won two of three. In The Dalles, the guys who beat me are ranked No. 1 and No. 2 in the state. They have 3 and 9 handicaps. I’m a 25.”
Lerten finished eighth in the Charlotte last year in the 11-year-old division, but he said he has it figured out this year.
“If you stay focused, it doesn’t get to you,” he said. “If you let them get in front of your game, you could lose the tournament.”
The Charlotte is an 18-hole stroke play competition. Girls 8-11 and boys 8-9 play nine holes.
A chip off the old block
Lerten, who also plays lacrosse and basketball and runs cross-country, got his first set of clubs when he was about 2 years old. They were made of plastic and they were for right-handed players.
No problem. Lerten just turned the club around so he could hit left-handed.
His parents, Kris and Stacey, started playing golf when Lerten was a toddler, and he has grown up playing Big River Golf Course in Umatilla.
“He can beat his mom, but not me — yet,” Kris Lerten said. “His short game might be better than mine. He spends most of his time playing with adults. It’s a fun family thing.”
Lerten will play in the Campus Life Golf Tournament with his mom at Big River on Saturday.
“This tournament helps kids,” Lerten said. “I want to golf, and helping kids is exciting.”
Lerten has a big heart for a young man. He has been attending Rotary meetings in Hermiston this summer with his grandma, Jeanne Jewett, and helped the organization with its booth at the Umatilla County Fair. He likes that Rotary helps people locally and internationally.
An honor student, Lerten also was in Leadership Club at Rocky Heights Elementary School in the fifth grade.
Lerten would like to take his game to the PGA, but not to be famous or pocket a lot of money.
“I have been watching tournaments on TV,” he said. “I want to donate to St. Jude’s and the American Heart Association. The more kids who are helped have a chance to play golf and be successful in what they want to do.”
Love of the game
Lerten’s parents have fostered his love of golf. They are members at Big River, they take him to tournaments, have him work with a swing coach, and recently, they put a bunker and putting green in their backyard.
“I can practice whenever I want,” Lerten said.
Lerten has worked with Chris Issacson at Wine Valley Golf Course in Walla Walla on his swing, and he likes to play the different courses in the area, with Wildhorse being his favorite.
“Chris has taught me a lot of stuff,” Lerten said. “Wildhorse has better greens and they are fast. They have a nice clubhouse, a golf simulator and a restaurant.”
His top course is Las Vegas National. He has played there once, and would like a return trip, before he’s 21.
His favorite player is Jordan Spieth, but his favorite person to play golf with is recent Hermiston graduate Garrett McClannahan.
“I’ve played with some pretty good golfers, but Garrett is my favorite to play with,” Lerten said.
Lerten has a few years before he can play for Hermiston High School, which is the first step in his planned golfing future.
“I want to get a scholarship to the University of Oregon and play in the PGA,” he said. “Not a lot of my friends golf, but some have been learning the game. I want to grow the game more.”