Rocco Lopez has credited the support he received as a junior golfer growing up in Jamaica for his receiving the inaugural Floyd County Excellence in Sports Performance Year (ESPY) award.
Lopez, 18, won the award last week in the Male Golfer of the Year category for an outstanding senior year at Darlington High School in Rome, Georgia. The ceremony honoured seniors from secondary schools across the county who have proven exceptional in the areas of sports, academics and youth service over the last year.
"Winning Male Golfer of the Year at the inaugural Floyd County ESPYs is a testament to the support that I have received throughout my time playing as a junior in Jamaica from my family, coaches, and teammates," Lopez told the Jamaica Observer.
Lopez had already begun establishing himself as one of Jamaica's brightest prospects in the sport, with the support of parents Bruce and Summer before leaving for the United States of America for better opportunities. He started out as a student at Campion College in St Andrew; however, he says spending three years at Darlington has also made him a better golfer.
"Playing at Darlington High School in Georgia for the last three years has been an incredible experience," he said. "The support of my team members and coaches has given me a greater appreciation for the game."
Lopez had an active season at Darlington this year as the school participated in six invitational events over the last two months, as well as their Area Championship. He earned a top-five placing in four of those events. This included two events where he tied for low medallist (first place), the Area Championship being one of them. He was also named MVP of the Darlington School varsity golf team.
Lopez won the Jamaica Junior National Team trials for the 18-and-under division shooting +3 over three days at Caymanas Golf Club earlier this year.
He also won the 13-and-under division of the Caribbean Amateur Junior Golf Championship (CAJGC) in 2018.
Lopez, who now tops the national 18-and-under division, will have his next outing at the Georgia State Championship later this month. He will then represent Jamaica for the final time as a junior at CAJGC which will be held in the Cayman Islands at the beginning of July.
"I have been playing golf since I was introduced to the game at the age of eight," he said. "I have had the honour of representing Jamaica at the junior and senior level. This year's Caribbean Championship in July will be my final junior tournament. I look forward to doing my country proud. The Jamaican junior golf programme is doing a great job to introduce Jamaican children to the values, discipline, and integrity that golf requires."
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