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Valparaiso freshman set to make awaited debut

Valparaiso freshman set to make awaited debut

  • Updated
Aidan Gutierrez

Valparaiso freshman Aidan Gutierrez was the youngest golfer to qualify for the  U.S. Junior Amateur Championship in 2019.

VALPARAISO – The time has finally arrived for Aidan Gutierrez.

While the Valparaiso freshman will be a newcomer to the high school circuit this spring, Gutierrez has been well known on the local golf scene for years.

He started playing golf when he was 2 years old and he has put together a lengthy list of accomplishments, including being the youngest golfer in the country to qualify for the U.S. Junior Amateur Championship in 2019. He’s set to make his eagerly awaited debut for Valparaiso High School.

“I have just been patiently waiting,” Gutierrez said. “I’ve been friends with all the guys on the team that are two years older than me. I’ve been waiting to join them and they’ve been waiting for me. I’m excited to represent Valpo and my team.”

After competing on his own for his entire childhood, Gutierrez is looking forward to having teammates to work alongside, including Valparaiso upperclassmen Brady Hudson and Colin Danzi.

“Golf is an individual sport, but the cool thing is that now I get to be part of a team,” Gutierrez said. “It might be different and it might be something to adjust to, but I’ve been friends with these guys for such a long time. Just going to matches with them and growing our games together. I can’t wait for that experience.”

Longtime Valparaiso coach Wayne Lichtenberger has seen his fair share of golf prodigies come through his program over the years and he’s eager to begin working with Gutierrez. The pair have known each other for years and Lichtenberger even taught Gutierrez in sixth grade.

“Some guys take a little longer to get used to the high school format and some guys fall right in and go,” Lichtenberger said. “Aidan is a guy that I don’t have any worries about. I think he’ll just fall right in. The big thing as a coach is, you don’t screw them up. He’s had lessons from pros all over the place. I’ll talk to him, find out what he’s working on and help him watch over that development.”

Gutierrez has worked with numerous high-level coaches, including Kevin Weeks, Chris Wellsand and Bruce Rearick. Rearick was personally selected by Arnold Palmer to be the club pro at Palmer’s home course at LaTrobe Country Club in Pennsylvania.

While Gutierrez has had no shortage of coaching influences, he had to begin coaching himself when the COVID-19 outbreak hit last year. There were still plenty of tournaments to be played, but Gutierrez found himself with a lot more down time during periods of isolation and he put that time to good use.

“I really had to rely on myself and do some things to make sure that I kept getting better,” Gutierrez said. “I was on my own there for about six months and I learned the art of becoming more self-reliant and more efficient. I spent a lot of time on the mental side of learning how to be more efficient in everything.”

Valparaiso is set to open the 2021 season with a pair of tournaments on April 10. The Vikings are scheduled to compete at the Rochester Varsity Invite as well as the Harrison Invite.

“We’re not exactly sure what we all have this season,” Lichtenberger said. “Golf had a boom with COVID and I’m approaching the numbers we used to have 10 or 15 years ago. We have a lot of talent in our freshman class and we’ve got a lot of juniors who are eager to get back out there. We’re looking forward to it.”

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Paul Oren has been a correspondent reporter for The Times since 2005. A member of the United States Basketball Writers Association, Paul has spent more than 15 years covering Valparaiso basketball.

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