Sports

"Lanza long off the tee, short on bravado"

"If BHS senior Joe Lanza lined up among a dozen or so Spartan athletes, and an outside observer was asked to pick out the scratch golfer from among the group, chances are that Lanza wouldn't be among the top choices.He stands just 5-7 and weighs 155 pounds, hardly the dimensions that you'd associate with Wing Point's co-course record holder of 64. In fact, given Lanza's polished, articulate manner of speaking and careful, reasoned responses to questions, the team you'd initially be inclined to identify him with would be the debate squad.But put that same group on the 17th tee at Wing Point and there wouldn't be any doubt.Since the dining room of Lanza's home overlooks that fairway, in all probability he'd be sitting there enjoying a soda before anyone else had even reached the green.Next week, Lanza begins his final rounds as one of the best golfers in Spartan history, as he heads to the state tournament. Surprisingly, as the quality of his game has ratcheted slightly upward each year, his finishes at state have gone in the other direction. Ninth as a freshman and 13th two years ago, he says that his junior year was disappointing. I made the cut. But that's about all.I'd like to win, he laughs, and it's in my ability to do so.There isn't a trace of cockiness or boasting in that statement, just a reasoned awareness of his capabilities. That same awareness is apparent as he discusses the various aspects of his game and how they relate to his future.The strongest parts of his game, he says, are his accuracy off the tee and his short game. He also regards putting as one of his strong suits.And while he consistently drives 230-260 yards off the tee - a range that most golfers would dearly love to claim as their own - he considers distance a major concern.My ultimate goal is the PGA tour, he says. To play on that level, I need more distance. I'd like to do 280-290, which is essential to take my game where I want it.Which means altering his swing.But that's hard to do, especially since I got into some bad habits, he says. I actually felt better as a sophomore than as a junior, and it showed at state.He's currently taking lessons from a pro and has already noticed improvement, especially in recent weeks as the ground has dried out and the ball bounces farther. He also lifts weights and stretches four times a week in the morning at a local gym. And almost every weekday, he plays at least nine holes at Wing Point. He plays 18 on Saturdays and Sundays, coupled with an hour or so of practice.That adds up to about 25-30 hours a week on top of school and homework.But Lanza is as gifted with time management as with a 20-foot putt, maintaining a 3.85 GPA. And that lofty number represents a lot more than the ability to regurgitate information.He recently completed a paper for his humanities class about what is causing teen violence, and how society can prevent it in the future.Our society is turning away from family values, Lanza says. Our focus is now on the individual. Kids feel more isolated because there isn't much of a sense of community. And it seems hard to find people who can offer that to them.As a result, golf wasn't the only criterion he used in determining his choice of college.I wanted a small private school with a good educational program, he says.Lanza will attend St. Mary's College, some 20 miles east of San Francisco, where he believes he'll find both an intellectual and a golfing challenge.Lest all this make Lanza sound too perfect, he's guilty of at least one error in judgment. Playing with his dad a couple of years ago, he hit what he considered a disappointing tee shot. Unhappy with himself, he turned away immediately and didn't even follow the flight of the ball.As a result, he missed seeing his hole in one. "

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