Vernon’s Braeden Cooper smacks his TaylorMade driver an average of 300 yards. His tee to green play is consistent and gives him a chance to contend in most tournaments.
A scratch handicap. Cooper will take his game to Minot State University next season after earning a scholarship with the North Dakota school. He joins Vernon’s Matt Kreutz, a junior with the Beavers.
“Matt talked really strongly of me so he helped me out,” said the soft-spoken Grade 12 VSS student. “I went to Minot for four days at the end of October and I liked it right away. I got a tour of the campus and they have good classroom size and a nice gym. Matt showed me around the three golf courses they play. The Minot Country Club has a super nice design.”
Cooper sent out scores of resumes and also attracted interest from Grand Valley State Lakers in Michigan, North Idaho College Cardinals and Grand View University Vikings in Iowa.
A 5-foot-9, 150-pounder, Cooper took up the game at age nine alongside his father and grandfather at Hillview. He now plays out of Predator Ridge Golf Resort, where he is coached by former LPGA Tour player AJ Eathorne and Brodie Carle.
“AJ and Brodie have been coaching me the last two years and they have taught me so much. I also have to thank my buddies Dexter Weiten, Jaden Steinke and Anthony Prince. We play almost everyday and they pushed me to be better.”
Eathorne, who won more than $1 million in a decade on Tour, says Cooper is a dream pupil.
“He’s been just fantastic,” said Eathorne. “The best thing about Braeden is his work ethic. You tell him it’s going to be tough and he’s fine with that. He has a smile. He’s willing to make changes and he’s so coachable. He listens to what we say because he knows we want him to get better and not just hear ourselves talk.”
Eathorne, who worked hours on tweaking Cooper’s grip, wants to see him have the time of his life in college golf. She has fond memories of playing for the New Mexico State Aggies before turning pro in 1998.
“I love working with Coop and I’m so proud of him. It’s more than golf: it’s about getting away and experiencing life on your own. It’s about camaraderie and travel. He’s going to see so many new golf courses.”
Cooper, who turned 18 in October, spent five years with the VSS Panthers golf team while playing on the Maple Leaf Junior Tour.
“My highlight would have to be when I was the MJT player of the year in 2015. I’m a steady player but nothing out of the ordinary. My four-peat (city championship) at Hillview was pretty nice.”
A former Rep soccer and House hockey star, Cooper says the Beaver head coach Randy Westby has issued workout plans but trusts his players to be ready on their own terms come next season.
“He’s there to steer us in the right direction but he wants us to be more independent. I’m self-motivated so that works for me. We qualify during the week but he takes most of the players to tournaments where the top-five scores count.”
Braeden’s favourite PGA Tour star?
“Ricky Fowler. He’s aggressive and there’s something different about him than your average golfer.”
Cooper is unsure of what he will study, but is leaning towards sciences. The school enrolment is 2,075,
Minot is a city of 49,000 and the home of the Minot Air Force Base. The Beavers play in the Northern Sun Intercollegiate Conference (NCAA Division II).