Falls Church’s Ben Lasso Coming Into His Own on the Golf Course

golfWhen Ben Lasso first enrolled at the International Junior Golf Academy in Hilton Head Island, South Carolina, the then high school sophomore was an aspiring golfer, but green as the fairway.


FALLS CHURCH NATIVE Ben Lasso has had a break-out first-half of 2010 on the links. (Photo: R. Fulton)

When Ben Lasso first enrolled at the International Junior Golf Academy in Hilton Head Island, South Carolina, the then high school sophomore was an aspiring golfer, but green as the fairway.

Very, very green.

“Let me put it this may,” says Hugh Royer during a recent phone interview. Royer is a professional golfer and private instructor who taught young Ben at the IJGA. “When he came to me, he couldn’t break 95. He’s come a long way.”

Yes, a long, long way.

The 21-year-old Lasso has had a break-out year this first half of 2010. In June, he finished tied for second at a Virginia State Golf Association qualifying event at River Creek Club in Leesburg. His two-day score of 142 qualified him for both the VSGA Amateur Championship at Belle Haven Country Club in Alexandria where he made it to the final 16 in match play; and the Suntrust State Open of Virginia at Independence Golf Club July 15 in Midlothian, VA.

In addition, Lasso was selected to the NCAA Division II All-Region Team for the Southeast U.S. and the PING All-America Third Team.

In May, the Queens University of Charlotte rising senior finished 11th at the Division II National Championship at Sagamore Club in Noblesville, Indiana. The big story there was that Lasso was atop the leader board after the first two days.

“It was more of just enjoying the experience,” says Lasso, from the porch of his home in Falls Church, of the D-II finals. “The first day was just go out there, have fun, see how well I can do.” Though the weather was poor the last couple of days of the event, Lasso admits that nerves also played a factor in giving up the lead.

“Overall it was good. I would have love to have won.”

In conversation, Lasso comes across as almost reserved. In fact, he’s a fierce competition.

Lasso says he started playing golf as early as he can remember, and his father David remembers Ben tagging along when he was 10 or 11. The youngster would join his father at local courses, at first more interested in riding in the carts.

But soon the younger Lasso began to pick up the game himself. After his freshman year at George Mason High School, his family had a discussion. Perhaps a more formal golf academy would be best.

“It was a difficult decision,” says David Lasso. “It’s like sending your kid to college.”

Ben enrolled in the IJGA, which partners with the Heritage Academy. He likens it to a boarding school, a combination of education and golf tutorial.

While at the IJGA, Royer dubbed Ben “Captain Question” because he was so inquisitive.

“Ben has taken it to another level,” says Royer. “He’s turned out to be a damn good player.”

Royer, who no longer works for the IJGA, describes Ben’s game as boring. Methodical and cerebral are actually good things in golf.

“If he keeps improving the way he has been, there’s no reason why he can’t continue to play and see what happens,” Royer says.

Lasso says that his time at the academy really prepared him for the collegiate level. He’s majoring in graphic design at the small Queens University of Charlotte, but his true focus is his golf career.

This summer, Lasso is interning at the Chantilly National Golf and Country Club. He works in the pro-shop from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. five days a week, and after that has course privileges to work on his game He considers his local home course Fairfax National Golf Club.

Standing only 5’7″, Lasso doesn’t hit it far, but he hits it true. He admits trying to design his game after Tiger Woods’ early on, but soon learned they are different types of golfers.

“As I’ve gotten older, that trying to emulate someone whose game is different is not a great idea,” says Lasso, who actually compares his game to his mentor Royer. “I’m trying to do things that I can’t do.”

Lasso cites perseverance as a key to success.

“When things aren’t going well, you just have to keep plugging away,” he says. “Keep trusting that it’s going to get better. Try not to get discourage. I think that’s the hardest thing for any golfer. There are times when you’re playing great, and times when you feel like you’ve never played before.”

He has one more year of school left, and after that is not sure where it might lead. He might go to Q-School and try for his tournament card, and may play in smaller events.

What he keeps in mind is the golfer he was – that kid who couldn’t break 95 – when he first went to the IJGA.

“A lot of people say there’s turning points. I feel for me, I like to keep in perspective where I was when I started and where I am now. To me, that’s what keeps me motivated.”