Before the fame - Hunter Mahan

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Hunter Mahan proved himself as an elite golfer long before his first PGA Tour victory.

Born in Orange, Calif., Mahan excelled in soccer and karate before being introduced to golf by his father, Monte Mahan. Hunter considers his dad to be the most influential person in his life growing up.

Unlike most golfers, golf came easy for Mahan. “I was blessed with a naturally smooth golf swing,” said Mahan.

Growing up in suburban McKinney, Texas, Mahan enjoyed a long list of junior accomplishments as a part of the American Junior Golf Association (AJGA). A self-described “not flashy, but consistent” golf game earned Mahan three Rolex Junior All-American awards and the 1999 Rolex Junior Player of the Year.

Hunter Mahan
Mahan is a three-time Rolex Junior All-American. (Getty Images)

During his junior golf career, Mahan was a mainstay atop the leaderboards. But upon reflection, Mahan acknowledges there is one junior golf victory he coveted above all the rest. “Winning the U.S. Junior,” said Mahan. “It’s a great list of champions and to be part of that is pretty cool.”

The list of U.S. Junior Amateur champions includes Johnny Miller, David Duval, Tiger Woods, and 16-year-old prodigy, Jordan Spieth.

The enormous trophy case earned during his junior career doesn’t hold Mahan’s only memories from junior golf. In reminiscing on his junior years, Mahan claims that his fondest memories were bonding with fellow golfers. Mahan and his best friend on tour, Sean O’Hair, met when they were only 12 years old.

“For myself and Sean we kind of look back to when we were 12 years old, playing, meeting each other, playing against one another and seeing where we are today, and see what we are in our lives,” said Mahan. “It’s just kind of neat to see how the progression in life kind of started when we were kids and where it is now.”

The progression of his game has reached the highest of levels. Mahan is currently ranked 21st in the World Golf Rankings. He has two career victories on the PGA Tour, including a first-place finish at this year’s Waste Management Phoenix Open. This week, Mahan will be competing against his close friend Sean O’Hair and the rest of the field at the U.S. Open.

More and more kids continue to take up the game of golf every day. For the new generation of golfers striving to become future pros, Mahan has one piece of advice. “Have no fear. Have no fear when you play golf.”

For two consecutive years, Mahan has given back to junior golf by co-sponsoring the AJGA’s Under Armour/Hunter Mahan Championship in his hometown of McKinney, Texas. “I have great memories from my years in the AJGA and I want to help provide today’s young golfers with the opportunity to achieve their dreams,” said Mahan.

Hayden Echols contributed to this article