LUMBERTON — Walter Ghaffar is not your typical youngster.
The 15-year-old Lumberton native has experienced plenty of success when it comes to the game of golf.
But it’s his uncommon drive to reach new heights on the course that keeps him chasing his next goal.
“I want to keep getting better and I want to play well for a long time,” said Ghaffar, a rising freshman at Fayetteville Academy. “I’m trying to break par more and (score) in the 60s.”
Ghaffar has made a name for himself as a junior golfer, qualifying for a trio of prestigious tournaments this summer. Next week, he’ll be competing in the 50th edition of the N.C. Junior Amateur at Colonial Country Club in Thomasville.
Of the 160 qualifiers, Ghaffar will be one of only 14 kids who has yet to start high school.
“Walt’s really just beginning his journey,” said Abdul Ghaffar, Walter’s father. “He is still young and growing. But he is a hard worker and that’s going to pay off eventually.”
Walter has also qualified to play in the Big I Junior Championship at Mid Pines Golf Club in Southern Pines and the Optimist World Jr. Golf Championship at PGA National — site of the PGA Tour’s Honda Classic — in Palm Beach Gardens, Fl. Both events are set for July.
It’s a journey that started in front of a television.
“I like to copy the (PGA Tour) players,” Walter said. “I like to see myself winning. I also liked going out to play with my mom and dad when they started playing.”
Walter’s success on the course has taken him to some of the same courses the pros play during the PGA Tour season, including the Ocean Course at Kiawah Island, Bay Hill, TPC Sawgrass, Torrey Pines and Pinehurst No. 2.
“My favorite course is Torrey Pines,” he said. “The layout is beautiful and the location is amazing.”
His favorite golfer is Rory McIlroy, but Abdul said a local pro from Fairmont has also had a positive affect on Walter’s growth.
“He is impacted by watching William McGirt and other pros,” Abdul said. “He loves watching tournaments. McGirt is an awesome role model.”
But Walter knows that watching can only take him so far.
“During the summer I practice almost every day,” he said. “I try to visualize everything I do — try to see the shots. I always start with chipping and putting then work out to short and long irons and I always finish with woods. I also do push-ups and crunches and stretch.”
And Abdul can see that his son’s hard work is starting to pay dividends.
“We proud of how hard he works. We are happy when he is satisfied with his round. Sometimes that’s just when we are playing together at Pinecrest (Country Club in Lumberton),” Abdul said. “He broke par out there last week. He was very happy. Golf is a game of serious ups and downs. He’s learning how to handle both.”
As he transitions to high school, Ghaffar is no stranger to competing at the prep level. He comes in as a two-time all-conference performer and state qualifier.
“In private school you can play varsity in junior high,” Abdul said. “. … He made the NCISAA tournament and became the first golfer at Fayetville Academy to make states in more than 10 years.”
But it’s not all about golf. Walter also plays basketball and runs cross country throughout the year.
“We encourage him to enjoy other sports,” Abdul said. “I think golf is so tough on you mentally, it’s good to have a team sport to enjoy. It allows him to share the responsibility of winning and losing.”
While enjoys playing other sports, there’s no question about what Walter enjoys most — playing golf.
“It keeps you humble and it’s very tough mentally which gives me a challenge,” he said. “I want to play in college and on the PGA Tour. I also want to play college basketball.”
As Walter continues his rise up the junior golf ranks, Abdul has a bit of advice.
“His mom and I tell him to be patient. He can play golf for a long time. The junior players who are the best now may not be in three years. Just keep working at it and keep it fun.”
Rodd Baxley can be reached at 910-416-5182. Follow him on Twitter @RoddBaxley.