Olivia Lu, who competed for the Lions boys varsity golf team last fall as an eighth-grader, won two local junior tournaments in January.
There were plenty of unknowns for Jeff Carine when he took over the golf program at Foundation Academy.
The team had one girl — Foundation Academy eighth-grader Olivia Lu — and it remained to be seen how the young golfer would adapt to playing from the boys tees.
It didn’t take long, however, for any questions about Lu’s game to be answered.
“The first meet was probably one of the highlights of the season — just because you don’t really know what’s going to happen,” Carine recalled. “As you get toward the end, and the scores start coming in, and you begin to see (Lu’s) score — she shot 43 for nine holes, and I just went, ‘Wow, that’s really solid.’”
Lu medaled in that first match and continued to play well all season for the Lions. Since varsity season ended, she has continued to play well in her individual outings on local junior tours such as the Premiere Junior Golf Tour, the Top 50 Scholarship Golf Tour and the Florida Junior Tour.
Lu, who won an event in the Hurricane Junior Golf Tour in August, won two more events in January — a Top 50 event Jan. 13 at Dubsdread in Orlando and Premiere Tour event a week later at Legends Golf Club in Clermont.
Her recent success is even more impressive considering she has only been playing the game for two years.
“I first started with a golf summer camp just for fun,” Lu said. “I thought it was really fun. I was only doing it once a week, and I looked forward to it.”
Lu began training with her first coach and within the last year, she has started to regularly play events nearly every weekend. Her current coach is Andrew Park, and she trains with Park out of Orange County National.
She has six tournament wins to her credit so far.
The eighth-grader is off to an impressive start, but she knows there is plenty to learn.
“I wouldn’t call myself good yet, because I know there are still so many better people than me, but I realized that I was pretty decent when I won my first tournament,” Lu said.
She also acknowledged it was tough beginning the varsity season playing from the boys tees but she got used to it quickly and now feels comfortable playing from either tee.
Carine said one of the coolest parts of Lu being the only girl on the team last season was the way she gelled with the team.
“What was really fun was just to see how much the team grew to love her like a little sister,” Carine said. “The team got to be very close over the course of the season — and right away, there was a lot of respect for the quality of her game.”
Lu said she is hard at work on all aspects of her game and hopes to continue to progress into more competitive events. She is also thankful to her parents, who bear the burden of getting her to events each weekend and footing the bills.
“I am so glad and I appreciate them so much — it’s not cheap,” Lu said.
Carine, who anticipates returning again next fall to coach the Lions, said he will be excited to see how his young golfer progresses and how she could do in the FHSAA State Series as a freshman.
“The quality of her short game, the consistency of her ball striking — she just knows how to play the game,” Carine said. “She knows how to get the golf ball in the hole. She has a tremendous amount of resilience. … She has a bad hole, and she comes right back.”