by C. Jemal Horton

David Sargent doesn’t remember a time when golf wasn’t a part of his life. In the late 1990s, when most toddlers were begging their parents for the latest Beanie Babies, Sargent was content hacking away at golf balls in the family’s yard.

That didn’t mean he dedicated his early years to becoming a golf prodigy; even as he grew older and his smooth swings impressed family and friends more and more, golf merely was the way Sargent had fun when he wasn’t trying to excel in the classroom.

“I never started taking (golf) too seriously until I was 13 or so,” said Sargent, now a 6-foot-5 standout who recently completed the 11th grade at Hough High School.

“I started taking lessons from the pro (at River Run Country Club). I really didn’t compete in too many big (junior) tournaments until last year. I had a few good rounds in some big tournaments, and I guess that’s when I realized I had the potential to do well. I’m not where I want to be, but I guess I sort of knew that I could get there if I keep working at it.”

This spring, Sargent established himself on the Lake Norman-area high-school golf scene, winning the I-MECK 4A conference championship after leading the league with a total of just 297 strokes. Sargent performed well in the 4A Western Regional tournament and also finished tied for 21st in the highly competitive Class 4A state competition.

This week, Sargent wrapped up his campaign by being named The Herald Weekly’s 2011 Boys Golfer of the Year.

But it wasn’t just a successful year on the golf course for Sargent. He maintains a 4.7 GPA while taking Advanced Placement courses at Hough. Because of that, a number of colleges are just as interested in acquiring him as a student as they are as an athlete. Sargent attributes being so strong in both golf and school to having a strong work ethic in all phases of his life.

“Right after school, I go to the golf course and practice however much I want,” he said. “Then when I get home, it’s ‘eat and do homework.’ Academics definitely are important to me. After (homework), it’s about 9 or 10 (p.m.), and that’s about my whole day. My approach is, ‘Do what you need to do in golf, but then get home and make sure your academics are up to par.’”

Now that school’s out for the summer, Sargent will spend much of his time playing in a number of junior tournaments that could improve his profile on a national level. It’s a process that began in earnest a year ago.

“Before, I tried hard at golf, but it wasn’t like I was going out playing tournaments and trying to win,” Sargent said. “I’m still having fun now, but I am trying to see how I can do against the other good players in the area and state and (nation).

“As long as I can keep playing golf, that’s always going to be fun to me.”