Nine-year-old Drue Nicholas, of Egg Harbor Township, was a focused golfer as a toddler.

“I took him to the driving range at age 2, just to occupy him. He’d set his own ball up and hit for an hour or so,” said dad Mark Nicholas, 42.

 That’s where they met PGA golf pro John Petronis Sr., of Northfield, founder of the Junior Golf Association  and Drue’s coach. Petronis runs the JGA Golf Academy at Harbor Pines Golf Club in Egg Harbor Township and brings high-level kids’ tournaments to South Jersey.

In April, Drue won the Optimist International Junior Golf Championship district qualifier at Greate Bay Country Club in Somers Point, playing against kids ages 10 and 11. He shot an 87, the lowest score of his life, Mark said.

Now he will play against kids from dozens of countries in the Callaway Junior World Golf Championship in San Diego, Calif.; and the Optimist International Junior Golf Championship in West Palm Beach, Fla. Mark said he and his wife, Beth, will be proudest seeing their son walk out in opening ceremonies with the U.S. team.

Mark co-founded the Nicholas Memorial Golf Tournament in memory of his father, Nick Nicholas.  The 12th annual event will be June 8 at Harbor Pines and benefits the American Cancer Society South Jersey. Visit www.heavenshelpersinc.org.

Drue will play in a foursome with John Petronis Jr., 16, of Northfield; and Egg Harbor Township residents Jonathan Prussel, 11, and Eric DeKarski, 14. Mark expects them to vie for the tournament title.

It’s easy to stay focused on golf, Drue said. “I just love the sport so much,” he said.

Absegami High School graduating senior Kasey Frazier, 18, captain and MVP of the high school girls’ golf team, was the first recipient of the Mark Much Memorial MVP Award for golf. She is from Galloway Township. The award is based on performance, action and leadership on the course and off, said coach and special education science teacher Ronald Schmid.

Frazier has committed to play for Wheeling Jesuit University in West Virginia, where she will attend on athletic and academic scholarships, he said.

Mark Much, of Egg Harbor Township, died of leukemia at age 32 in 2011. He was the only child of retired Absegami English teacher and baseball coach Terrence Much, who started the award this year.

Mark was captain and MVP of Absegami High High School’s golf team in 1996. He attended PGA school and became a golf professional, and later was director of VIP services at the Chelsea Hotel in Atlantic City.

Contact Michelle Brunetti Post:

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