By: Stephen Whitaker
The little driver with pink accents meets the white ball with dimples and sends it flying into the hill country air on a summer morning. As the ball makes its way down the fairway the eyes of the girl holding the driver scan the horizon looking for where the ball will land.
With that Natalie Wagner, nine years old and native of Helotes, has made another stellar drive for someone her age and in the process shown why she is one of the top golfers in the country for the seven-to-nine-years-old age group.
“She can drive the ball 180-190 yards,” says her proud Grandpa, “Papa” Joe Castillo to the owner of Oak Valley Golf Course Daniel Morales.
Natalie with pride and a smile as big as Texas: “In drives I would say less effort and more distance.”
Wagner, the daughter of David and Carol Ann Wagner, has been playing golf for almost three years now. Last year she got involved with the Drive, Chip and Putt, an international competition in which young golfers try to win sanctioned tournaments in order to be one of a select few chosen to participate in the big finals every April at Augusta National the week of the Masters.
“My first ever pro (teacher) that I got was talking about the Drive, Chip and Putt held in San Pedro so I went and I won it,” Natalie says as she sits outside of the Oak Valley Clubhouse drinking a blue Gatorade that was given to her by Morales. “Then I went to Houston but I didn’t do so well. This year I entered it again and won the local tournament.
Wagner is looking forward to competing in the Drive Chip and Putt regional on September 13 at the Golf Club of Houston in Humble, Texas. Should she win there it would punch her ticket to Augusta, a place she has never been before but the thought of going there is motivation enough.
“You get to meet the pros,” Natalie said of one of the perks of a trip to Augusta during the Masters.
The golf dreams don’t end there for young Natalie. Her goal is to earn a scholarship in college that would allow her to play golf for the school. First choice is UTSA and the Roadrunners would do well to pay attention to the phenom from Helotes. After college Natalie hopes to one day make the LPGA.
“I want to be in first place on the LPGA and win Tournaments,” Wagner said when asked where she might want to be in 15-20 years.
Natalie has the confidence to go far with golf as well as the talent. When her mom asked her if she was worried in the last tournament Natalie responded with that trademark smile.
“No, not really. Because I knew I could win it,” Natalie said. “My motto is ‘I am not afraid, I was born to do this.’”
Maybe one day the little driver with the pink accents will become a bigger driver with pink accents. It will meet the same dimpled ball and off into the sky will fly the ball. The holder of the driver, Natalie Wagner, will look up to see the flight of the ball as it goes down the fairway while all around her a gallery of golf fans will clap and cheer.
When that day comes no one will be prouder than her family.
“I have 11 grandchildren. About half of those have asked me to teach them golf,” Papa Joe Castillo said. “With most, two weeks later they quit but with her on the first day I said ‘we need to get her some clubs.’”
Now Natalie is on her second set of clubs. She is the favorite of not only her family but also the workers at Oak Valley.
“Thank you for coming out here,” Morales said to Natalie. “I’m glad you like this place. Keep up the golf.”
Natalie Wagner checks her clubs to make sure they are all there. She has had a good day of practice but now it is time to head home. Tomorrow morning the sun will rise and with it will go young Natalie to Oak Valley.