By Chris McCarthy/Editor
John Hilliard Catanzaro recently took the next step toward his goal of one day competing on the PGA Tour.
The Westbrook Christian senior signed a golf scholarship with the University of South Alabama in Mobile on Tuesday (Nov. 15) in Rainbow City.
A member of the school’s varsity golf team for the past six years, Catanzaro helped the Warriors win the last two Class 1A-3A AHSAA state golf championships while winning three consecutive individual titles. He was low medalist at the 2016 state tournament and holds the state record for shooting the third lowest score ever shot in an AHSAA event at 64-eight under par. He was an all-state selection for his 8th grade, freshman, sophomore and junior seasons.
In two Southeastern Junior Golf Tournament events this year, Catanzaro finished first in one and runner-up in the other. He lost in second hole playoff in an American Junior Golf Association tournament.
As of August, Catanzaro was ranked 150th nationally in the American Junior Golf Association poll and fourth in the state of Alabama.
“I’ve being dreaming of this since Day 1, so it’s pretty big accomplishment for me,” said Catanzaro, who has played in the Warriors No. 1 position the past two seasons. “I wouldn’t be here without my parents (Tony and Tracie).”
Catanzaro, who currently carries a 4.3 grade point average and intends to study either business, accounting or marketing, said that he choose USA primarily because of the relationship he has developed with coach Alex Hamilton, who took over the Jaguars’ men’s golf program earlier this year after being an assistant coach at the University South Carolina.
“He’s probably the best coach I talked to (during the recruiting process], and he’s just an awesome person. Also, I’ll be five minutes away from my swing coach, Tony Ruggiero. It’s also a heck of a campus down there.”
“Coach Hamilton is truly a man of character and absolutely devoted to the development of these young men in all aspects of their lives,” added John’s dad Tony, who played collegiate golf at Auburn University. “Even though John Hilliard had multiple opportunities, he believes this is the best place for him to reach his goal of playing on the PGA tour.”
On the local golf scene, Catanzaro has won the Glencoe Invitational three years in a row with total score of 23 under par. He has also won the Kickoff Classic, the Etowah County Championship and the Kelsey Goodwin Championship.
“John Hilliard is an outstanding golfer right now, and I expect him to get better in college,” said Westbrook golf coach Misti Fairchild. “He’s not only very talented [but] he’s a hard worker. Even when we don’t have practice, he’s out there on the [golf] course. He’s played all over the country in huge tournaments against some of the best junior golfers in the United States.
“John Hilliard’s a real asset to our team, and we’re really going to miss him when he’s gone. He’s developed into a good leader who has been encouraging to our girl players as well as the boys. His academics are wonderful, too.”
Catanzaro noted that he and his fellow seniors on the WCS golf team have already discussed what needs to be done in order to capture a third straight state title.
“We’ve already been practicing, and we’ve got a good chance.”