A sports writer rarely gets the chance to follow up on a prior story, particularly when that story is nearly 12 years in the making.
But such an opportunity presented itself in early March when The Cross Timbers Gazette was notified that three golfers, Jace Valentine, Rohit Madireddi and Advait Chutke were starters on the Flower Mound High School golf team, one of the top 20 golf programs in the state of Texas.
What makes this such a remarkable story is twofold: in 2008, I wrote a feature on the then elementary school students who were already making a splash on the national golf scene, and the fact that the three of them have played against each other or on the same team ever since.
At the time the story was brought to the paper’s attention, the focus was going to be on these young men’s quest to qualify for the state tournament and possibly contend for a state championship.
Then the COVID-19 virus brought a rapid and devastating end to that objective and may have ended their season completely.
Flower Mound golf coach Darren Bailey said, while it has been a hard pill for the young men to swallow, it has not done anything to deter them from continuing to stay sharp, just in case the opportunity to finish out the season comes about.
“They are together every day at the golf course playing and competing in the same practice group making each other better,” Bailey said on March 18. “They help each other constantly.”
And, evidently, it has always been that way.
In July 2008, Valentine, Madireddi and Chutke all qualified to compete in the U.S. Kids World Golf Championships in Pine Hurst, North Carolina.
“For juniors, this is one of the largest opportunities and greatest experiences they will ever have,” their coach Wesley Francis said at the time. “For just having worked with them for one year, they’ve improved a lot. There are kids from all over the world competing in this tournament, so just to qualify for this competition is a great honor.”
Chutke said that there is “definitely” a sibling rivalry that exists between the three of them, even though they are unrelated.
He also said that, just like brothers, they always have each other’s back.
“We all try to beat each other constantly, and we trash talk each other a lot,” Chutke said. “We sometimes practice only for the goal of beating the other, but we always support each other at the same time.”
The Jaguars were ranked 18th in the state among 6A golf teams prior to the suspension of all UIL activities in March, and Bailey said that Chutke, Madireddi and Valentine have all contributed to that.
“We have become one of the top golf programs in the state,” Bailey said. “These three boys are a huge part of that. Rohit and Advait played with the top team last year. We lost three of those boys to graduation and they are all playing in college. Jace stepped in immediately and joined the top five this year. Rohit and Advait always say, and I quote, ‘Jace is like an angel that fell from the sky.’
“Jace is that special of a player and has had a great year which makes this team just as good as last year’s record-setting team, if not better.”
Madireddi, Valentine and Chutke all share mutual respect and had nothing but positive things to say about each other’s’ games.
“Jace impresses me with his positivity,” Madireddi said. “He can bogey five holes in a row, but he will talk about his good shots and that helps him bounce back from bad holes. Advait impresses me with his strive for perfection. He always feels like he could have done better and that motivates him to improve.”
Chutke said Madireddi’s perseverance has always impressed him.
“He can turn a bad day to a good one,” Chutke said. “I’ve seen him on multiple occasions have rough starts, but still shoot fairly low scores at the end of the day.”
Chutke and Madireddi both intend to play golf in college and, as juniors, both have one more year at Flower Mound to shoot for the goal of qualifying for the state tournament.
Valentine is a senior and will attend Texas A&M University this coming fall, but does not intend to play golf at the college level.
Bailey said the suspension of play due to the COVID-19 virus has been difficult for his team, but said his players remain focused even now.
“We are dealing with it the best we can,” Bailey said. “Most of the players have hitting areas at their house. Advait has a putting green. Rohit made a hitting mat out of a memory foam mattress. They can always putt in their hallways too. I told them to just be positive that we will still get to play in May.
“Positive thoughts and hope is best right now. Live each day the best we can and know everything will turn out for the best.”
UIL activities have been suspended until further notice.