The PGA REACH Southern Texas Scholarship Program awarded 28 scholarships amounting to $115,000 to 22 individuals.
One of them was Mont Belvieu’s Cari Denson.
Denson will attend Sam Houston State University in the fall after receiving the Shawn Stefani Scholarship.
Attending Southeast Christian, a home school run out of Mont Belvieu, allowed Denson to pursue her goals of being a collegiate and hopeful pro golfer.
“My ultimate goal and dream are to play in the LPGA,” Denson said. “I just started playing my freshman year, so I really needed the time to practice and get to the level I needed to play for a Division I. I want to be on the LPGA so I can have that platform to give back to the community, start a ministry and just lead people to Jesus. I know I can sacrifice now, but in the long run it will pay off.”
Going to Southeast Christian afforded her two school-intensive days of class and then she spent the rest of her week practicing – at least 35 hours with a Sunday off – or playing.
“You are not really having the same social life as Barbers Hill,” Denson said. “For me I have my eyes on the goal and know what I needed to do.”
Denson plays in tournaments and is currently ranked 19th in Texas on the Junior Golf Scoreboard poll while also finding herself No. 549 on the planet. Both have been frozen due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
“That’s pretty good since most players are Division I,” Denson said of her Texas rank. “There is so many good golfers in this world. My ranking is only going to to go up. I have a planned tournament on Memorial Day in San Antonio at the Texas Masters, and I should play really well.”
Denson is heading to Huntsville to golf for an improving SHSU program.
“I am so excited: The girls and my team are just incredible,” Denson said. “It’s hard to find your school – I almost went to Texas State and Dallas Baptist. When I visited Sam Houston, I knew that’s where God wanted me to go. I can’t wait to be a part of that. Over the past couple of years, they’ve got really competitive.
“The scholarship helped a lot. My (SHSU) scholarship is a lot of combined scholarships. It is such a blessing (to get the Stefani scholarship) because I don’t know if I could go to Sam Houston without it.”
Jeff Strong, who has been the pro and course manager at Eagle Pointe Golf Course in Mont Belvieu, acknowledges Denson’s growth as a player.
“Her work ethic is better than anyone I have seen in a long time,” Strong said. “She picked up the game four years ago and she is going to Sam Houston State so that speaks for itself. I got her started and she worked her butt off. She works on her fundamentals and got them down. If someone loves to work at it, you are going to improve. She still has to figure some things out, but that comes with time.
“As far as getting out there and putting in the time and continually learning how to get better, she’s done every bit of that.”
Stefani was a standout golfer at Barbers Hill High School and a 2005 alum of Lamar University’s program.
Stefani turned pro in 2005 and is currently playing on the PGA Tour where his highest ranking is No. 79. He also has two Web.com tour wins in 2012 and 2014.