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Fifteen-Year Old Filipino Is Youngest S.F. Men's Golf Champ

Asian Journal, Sports Feature, Malou Liwanag-Aguilar Posted: Mar 20, 2009

SAN BRUNO, California-- At 14, most boys would still be trying to figure out what they want to do with their lives and how to make a name for themselves. However, Carlos Briones seems to have set his name in stone, as just this month he became the youngest men’s golf champion in San Francisco’s 92-year history.

And to think he hardly spoke a word of English when he first moved here in the United States from the Philippines at the age of five. "It was a hard transition, I only knew a couple of words," Carlos said in an interview with Asian Journal. But as any new immigrant, he later on adjusted, and explained that being in school helped him learn English.

As for golf, Carlos said that no one actually influenced him to learn the sport. "I started to play at seven years old," he said and added, "There was a Filipino festival in San Leandro and they were giving free lessons, so I tried it out." And what started out as a hobby is now what has placed him in the City’s history.

Carlos beat Cal freshman Jamie Core, by a 3-and-2 margin over 36 holes in the finals at Harding Park, making his historic victory.

Most people now compare him to professional golfer Tiger Woods, who became the youngest-ever U.S. Junior Amateur Champion at the age of 15, but Carlos would rather not see himself that way. He just wants to play golf he said, and not be compared with any golfer. "I just want to be considered as a kid who enjoys playing golf."

Carlos also has the personal discipline that is needed to hone his skills. He works hard on it, he says, by practicing five to six days a week, three to four hours a day and longer during weekends. Yet, in between practices, school and tournaments, he still has time to be a kid.

Now 15 years old, (he just celebrated his birthday last March 12), he is still really, well, a kid. "I still go out with my friends," he said and added that he also plays football and basketball.

He also has other plans in mind like going to college and earning a degree. "I am hoping that my playing golf will help me get into a good school," he said, adding that he has his eye on Stanford University and that he wants to take up anything that has to do with Math.

His parents, Jorge and Esther Briones, who are both from Naga City, Philippines, couldn’t agree more about putting his education first.

"Palagi namin sinasabi sa kanya na his education should always be his priority (We always tell him that his education should always be his priority)," Esther said and added, "Iba ang meron ka talagang college degree (It is so important for one to have a college degree)."

There is no doubt that Esther is extremely proud of her son’s achievements. "Naiyak nga kami (We cried)," she shared and added her husband, Jorge was with their son’s journey to being a golf champion. Carlos also confirmed this by saying that his dad was with him during the tournament with the caddie. "My family has always supported me and I know my dad is proud of me. They both gave me all I needed."

One of the things that Carlos wants to do is to visit the Philippines. "I’ve never had the chance to go ever since I moved here," he said. He doesn’t discount the possibility of playing and teaching golf to young kids back home. But going home might just have to wait. Esther explained that most tournaments are during summer, and after that Carlos has to go back to school, which leaves them hardly any enough vacation time. Still, Carlos confirms that he’s still Filipino, stating that he still eats the food and lives the culture. He may not speak the language now, but he does understand it still—quite ironic for someone who never spoke a word of English before.

And he’s grateful for all the blessings that have come his way, and believes that anyone can achieve their dreams. "We are given opportunities, and I believe anyone can do this (what he has achieved), if they face challenges head-on."

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