Lucius Niesen golf
Lucius Niesen from Scotts Valley is the first-place finisher in the Hurricane Junior Golf Tour’s 16th annual National Championship Boys 11-13 Division earlier this month in Florida. With his dad as his caddie for the weekend, the 13-year-old finished 12-under-par and became the 2023 National Champion. (Contributed)

Lucius Niesen is the kind of kid every parent would love to call their own. Smart, positive, well-mannered and with a smile that’s sure to melt plenty of hearts in the future, the Scotts Valley Middle School student carries a few things very well: his GPA of 3.6, a deep sense of modesty and a great set of golf clubs.

The latter item is what put Niesen on the map as he took first place in the Hurricane Junior Golf Tour’s 16th annual National Championship on the Panther Lake Course at Orange County National in Florida the first weekend of December. 

The 13-year-old shot an 8-under-par 64 to win the boys’ 11-13 division, including birdying six holes on the back nine, and ended the two-day tournament with a score of 132, or 12-under-par.

While he calls Pasatiempo his home course, Niesen was pretty impressed with the course in Florida.

“It really suited my game with fast, slopey greens and wide-open tee shots,” he said.

The entire Niesen family is sports-oriented: mom Bonnie, a former national level soccer player, coaches beach volleyball; sister Liberty, a freshman, is a middle blocker and opposite hitter on the volleyball court for Harbor High School; and dad Travis was a basketball player at Santa Clara.

Starting at age 3, Niesen took up golf in an attempt to be just like his dad. A sergeant with the Santa Clara Police Department, the elder Niesen has been on the greens for 22 years and finds that a sport like golf—one which requires an exacting level of discipline and organization—suits both him and his son well.

“It’s a mental game,” said Travis as he settled in front of a crackling fire on a brisk December evening. “I started playing golf as a balance to other sports I was involved in and found that it was an outlet to be with my friends. I got really serious about it at Santa Clara University—I had a crush on a girl who lived with a bunch of golfers, so I was over there all the time, and we’ve now been married for 16 years,” he added as his wife, Bonnie, grinned and blushed.

Niesen credits his dad with helping him navigate the toughest part of the game: the mental acuity needed to perform at a consistently high level.

“Everything I’ve learned about remaining focused and staying present has come from my dad,” he said. 

With a typical round lasting about five hours, this teen isn’t distracted by TikToks or Snapchats—his head is in the game from the very first swing of his driver.

That ability to tune out the world became an integral part of Niesen’s game in the last few years after Bonnie was diagnosed with Stage 3 leiomyosarcoma. To demonstrate his support of and alliance with his mom’s battle, Niesen began to wear yellow shirts when on the links: Bonnie’s favorite color is yellow (“She loves the sun,” said Travis), and it’s also the ribbon color associated with sarcomas. 

With the five-year estimated survival rates for the diagnosis hovering around 50%, Bonnie has beaten the odds, is now fully recovered from her cancer, and teaches math at Scotts Valley High School.

One might think that a success story like the youngest Niesen’s would be hard to keep to oneself, especially in the world of competing popularity on a middle school campus, but he isn’t like other teenagers: ego and self-promotion have no place in this golf phenom’s world. 

In addition to taking the “W” at the Florida contest, Niesen also tied for third place at the Faldo Hurricane Series held in Buckeye, Ariz., in mid-September. For now, he’s preparing to participate on a two-player team at the Northwest Cup at Coyote Creek Golf Club in January. 

Entry fees to these various tournaments don’t come cheap, and Niesen gives his dad the credit for letting him play to his heart’s content. 

“My dad works really hard at his job, and he makes a lot of sacrifices for me,” he said.

“We’re using this as a vehicle to teach life lessons: hard work, respect, integrity and positivity. It’s expensive, but it’s priceless,” Travis said. “Five years from now, no one will remember the wins. What matters is who you are as a person.”

“When your kids find something that they’re passionate about, and they’re willing to work really hard at it, it’s impossible not to support that,” added Bonnie.

As for his future in sports, Niesen’s goal is to play golf in college, and possibly go pro. When he reaches that pinnacle of success, he won’t have his name on his golf bag; instead, he’ll have the motto that is currently emblazoned on the one he carries today: “Nobody Cares. Work Harder.”

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Christina Wise covers politics, education, art & culture, and housing issues. She has a degree in Communication from San Diego State University, and has lived in the San Lorenzo Valley since 1996. She's a community advocate and a mother of two.


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