Category - Amateur Programs

Player Spotlight: High School Golf National Invitational

By Hayley Wilson & Mandy Crow
Published on
Luke Tiu of West Virginia.

Luke Tiu of West Virginia.

This July, the PGA of America had over 500 high school golfers from 49 states transcend on Frisco, Texas, for the High School Golf National Invitational. 
Taking place July 10-12 and July 17-19, the National Invitational included both Boys and Girls Team and Individual competitions that were hosted at Fields Ranch East and West at PGA Frisco, as well as nearby Old American Golf Club and The Tribute Golf Links. 
The Texas (RGN) team from San Antonio won the Girls Team title, while Georgia’s Athena Yoo chipped in for eagle on the final hole to capture the Girls Individual title on July 12. A week later, the Georgia (RVA) team from Alpharetta, Georgia, won its second straight High School Golf National Invitational Team title, with one of their own players, Charles Beeson, claiming the Individual title.
Below, you'll find a quick snapshot of some more players who competed in Frisco, Texas, and their unique golf journeys.
Abbigail Detsch, Nevada (DGS)
Abbigail Detsch is making her second trip to the National Invitational, and she’s no stranger to the game of golf, either. Her father, Christopher, is the PGA Director of Golf at Toiyabe Golf Club in Washoe Valley, Nevada. Abbigail’s introduction to the game came through her dad’s PGA Jr. League program at 9-years-old.
“He’s been the coach of all of my PGA Jr. League teams,” Detsch says. “I want to follow in his footsteps in joining the PGA of America and growing the game.”
In fact, Abbigail wants to combine two of her passions into a meaningful career. Her second focus? Support of the deaf community.
In fourth grade, she watched a new classmate, Harley, walk in with an older woman, who turned out to be her interpreter. Determined to make a new friend, Abbigail taught herself sign language, and with the help of Harley and her interpreter, she became fluent. She frequently stepped in when Harley’s interpreter was late or unavailable. She even welcomed Harley onto her PGA Jr. League team, partnered up with her for practices and games and providing interpretations along the way.
“There’s no reason why a deaf person can’t play golf,” Detschl adds. “I can fill the gap.”
Abbigail plans to enroll in the PGM Program and start the path to becoming a PGA Member, with dreams of attending Gallaudet University for a Masters in Sign Language.
“I just think it would be awesome to mix both worlds that I love.”

Joss Lerwill, International (IND)
High school senior Joss Lerwill grew up in Wales, but he’s spent the last two summers in Vermont with family friends. His visit to Texas for the PGA Boys High School Golf National Invitational marks his first to the Lone Star State, and the story of his participation is as unique as his accent.
A student of Millfield School in the UK, he spent his Vermont summers training with a friend on the Burr & Burton Academy golf team. He’s become so close with the team that they invited him to attend their state championship, and with their victory came a bid to the National Invitational. Naturally, Lerwin had to come, too. 
“We spoke to Mike McDonald [NHSGA Lead] and he was great to allow me to come play and be part of this tournament,” Lerwill says. “It’s been awesome to see the competition in America and expose myself to this.”
Lerwill competed as an international individual and thoroughly enjoyed his experiences on Fields Ranch’s East and West at PGA Frisco, as well as Tribute Golf Links.
“I grew up playing links golf, so Tribute was good to play because it reminded me of home,” he says. “Playing the East Course has been my favorite part. As hard as it was, it was my favorite course to play. Just seeing these facilities [at PGA Frisco] ... I love the way the music is playing during the practice round. It lets you relax. It’s a great place to be.”
As for his journey with golf? It’s certainly not over. Having picked up the game from his dad at age 4, he’s in it for a lifetime.
Lerwin explored his options playing collegiately stateside, but he’s decided to stick close to home and take the academic route. He plans on studying mechanical engineering in Wales, and he’s already making plans to play in a recreational golf league at school.
“It’s not the NCAA, but it’ll be fun.”

Rio Pearlstein, Massachusetts (IND)
Rio Pearlstein, 17, picked up the game of golf when he was 7-years-old. All it took was one golf camp, and he was hooked. 
“Cancel everything else,” Pearlstein told his parents. “This is what I want to do.”
Rio is a transgender golfer who has found a sense of belonging and community in golf. He came out publicly as a sophomore as he was becoming increasingly competitive in the golf space, winning on the New England PGA (NEPGA) Junior Tour circuit and even earning the NEPGA Junior Tour Player of the Year honors in 2020.
While Rio’s Milton Academy team is co-ed, he competed in the Girls’ National Invitational as an individual as he has not undergone hormone replacement therapy. This was his second National Invitational after having played at Pinehurst last year.
“It was the biggest event I’d been a part of, and my parents and I were nervous,” Pearlstein says. “[The PGA of America’s] Chris Noble assured us that he and other staff would be there for us. I played well [76-78-75], and I felt very safe and supported by staff and high school golfers alike. I played my practice round with the Liberty High School team from Arizona, and they were so awesome. I still keep in touch with one of the girls.”
Rio is exploring a future of playing men’s golf in college, following a successful spring season with Milton Academy of playing the back tees in Independent School League (ISL) matches with his scores unaffected. Notching three wins this June alone in the junior circuit at the Optimist International Qualifier, NEPGA Jr. Champ Qualifier and Dale Smith Memorial Classic, his average score of 77.08 reflects a three-stroke drop over his average at this time last year.
Rio’s message is one of confidence and community –– that golf is a game for everyone, and that feeling comfortable in your own skin is key. Following chest reconstruction surgery in December, he’s feeling more comfortable in his body, and therefore more confident in his game.
“If you can’t feel good alone, you can’t authentically feel good with other people,” Pearlstein says.

Luke Tiu, West Virginia (WCL)
Two years ago, Luke Tiu wasn’t a golfer. A self-described “baseball and football guy,” he’d never really spent any time on the course. 
Then, COVID-19 changed everything. 
“My football season got canceled,” Tiu remembers. “So I just kept watching golf videos on YouTube and figured out how to play.” 
A rising high school junior, Tiu says he’s progressed as a player since those early days of the pandemic. 
“Obviously, at first I had a baseball swing,” Tiu says. “It wasn’t great. But I started taking lessons, and that evolved into me playing every single day and loving it.” 
Tiu loves golf so much that he eventually gave up football. While his skills have definitely progressed from those early days of YouTube videos and baseball swings, Tiu says he’s “blessed” to have been a part of the PGA High School Golf National Invitational. 
“I only started two-and-half years ago, so just to think I’d be [playing in the National Invitational] is incredible,” he adds. 
For Tiu, one of the high points of participating in the tournament was getting to play alongside several of his high school teammates. He and his teammates were invited to participate in the National Invitational after winning their state championship. 
“We had a really good performance at state and ended up winning by a good margin,” Tiu says. “Two of my teammates are graduating, and it’s going to be hard to see them go because we’ve spent so much time together. This [tournament] was another revitalizing thing for our team, getting to have one more week together.” 
Tiu is already looking forward to the future. While he isn’t sure what he might want to study in college, he’s positive that he’ll be a lifelong golfer. 
“I live in West Virginia and it’s cold in the winters, so I’d like to go somewhere [for college] like the Carolinas where it’s a little warmer in the winter,” he adds. “I’m not sure I could do a full-time college golf team, but I think I could do club. I’m just going to keep playing every day.”