By STEVEN JUPITER
BRANDON—Lucas Politano, a junior at Otter Valley, is having a fantastic season on the school’s golf team, winning the individual State Division II Championship for a second year just last week. But his success on the links doesn’t come as a surprise: one might say that he was born to play golf.
“I’ve had a club in my hand ever since I could walk,” Lucas said in his family’s home in Brandon.
His parents—Paul and Erika Politano—are accomplished players, come from golfing families, met at golf camp in Stratton, and even got engaged on a golf course. Paul is now an assistant golf coach at Middlebury College and the golf pro at the Ralph Myhre Golf Course on Midd’s campus, just one of several such positions he’s held over the last 30 years. But whether Lucas followed in his folks’ footsteps was resolutely his own choice.
“He’s in the driver’s seat,” laughed Paul. “And he was successful pretty early.”
One of Lucas’s earliest golfing memories was of scoring a birdie at Montague Golf Course in Randolph when he was 6 or 7 years old. (A player scores a “birdie” when they complete a hole one stroke under the hole’s par.) By the age of 10, Lucas was playing competitively at PGA Vermont events. At 12, he landed a hole-in-one at the Vermont National Country Club in South Burlington, a shot he remembered with special fondness.
“I knew it was a good shot,” Lucas said when asked if he’d been surprised by that result.
He’s already setting his sights beyond Vermont and has been playing in events all over the country and making a name for himself in the process: Lucas tied for third place at the Arnold Palmer Junior Invitational in Orlando, Florida in July. He was 19th out of 312 at the 2023 PGA Junior State Championship in Frisco, Texas.
The result in Georgia was especially meaningful to Lucas because the course is “a good test” of a golfer’s skill. “There’s a lot of water on the course,” he said. “A lot could go wrong.”
A summer foray to the Mizuno/Keith Mitchell Junior Championship at the Sea Island Resort in Georgia wasn’t his finest hour—“I didn’t do so great”—but his mother praises his ability to keep his cool even when things aren’t working out in a particular round.
“He’s very strong mentally,” said Erika. “You’ll never see him throwing his clubs if he misses a shot. You never know when he’s not doing well.”
“I’m pretty levelheaded. And I’m proud of myself for having a short memory,” said Lucas, referring to his ability to stay calm and move on from a missed opportunity. “I’m always confident that the next shot will be a good shot.”
Now in his junior year at OV, Lucas hasn’t made any firm decisions about his post-graduation plans, but he does know they’ll include golf, eventually at the pro level. For now, though, he’s hoping for a golf scholarship to a Division I school somewhere in the south.
“I don’t like winter,” laughed the boy from Vermont. But the statement isn’t just the usual complaint about the cold: for a golfer, harsh winters mean no play. Here in the Brandon area, there are several excellent courses (Erika calls the course at Neshobe “one of the best in the state”), but freezing temps and heavy snowfall keep them closed for much of the year, greatly limiting practice and play. For someone who likes to be on the course “every day” during the summer, Vermont winters are more than just an inconvenience.
Lucas is the youngest of four Politano kids, all of whom have fared well as golfers. Sister Mia is now a junior at Middlebury and had 2 state individual championships while at OV. Brother Thomas was on 2 state-champ golf teams at OV and is now at SUNY/Delhi, where he’s studying the science of turf management—maintaining a great course is more than just mowing the grass. And sister Elena (twins with Thomas) was on 2 state-runner-up teams at OV and is now at St. Lawrence University in New York.
“All our kids have done great with sports,” said Paul. In fact, Lucas’s focus may be on golf, but he’s also played basketball and soccer at the varsity level at OV.
Paul and Erika also credit golf with teaching their kids sportsmanship, etiquette, and social skills.
“You meet people through golf,” said Erika.
“You can play with people from very different backgrounds, and you end up talking with them for hours,” said Paul. “All our kids are very social.”
“I’d love more people to get into golf,” said Lucas. “I love the uniqueness of individual sport. It’s just you against the course.” And he seems to have developed a sophisticated ability to assess the lay of the land when teeing up a shot.
“I’m always looking for anything that will put me on the green,” he said. “I’m trying to figure out which way the ball is going to bounce.”
For many teenagers, spending more time with their parents isn’t at the top of their wishlists, but Lucas genuinely enjoys playing with his parents and siblings and genuinely enjoys the game.
“I would lose a lot of love for the game if I didn’t still play for fun,” he said. “If I play for fun, the rest will take care of itself.”
And given Lucas’s track record, the rest seems to be taking care of itself very well.