A few Sunday afternoons of television viewing helped Ray Gillip find an activity for life.
The Las Vegas High School junior took up golf after watching PGA Tour events on television with his cousin.
Now he’s emulating some of the stars he watched on the small screen and winning tournaments of his own.
Gillip, who is tops among area Class 4A golfers in 18-hole stroke average at 72.0, leads the Wildcats into today’s Sunrise Regional tournament at Anthem Country Club. Tee times begin at 9 a.m.
The top two teams in the regional and the top five individuals not on qualifying teams advance to next week’s state tournament.
“I was about 9, and my cousin and I were watching a lot of PGA on television,” Gillip said. “It looked like a lot of fun, so we started playing.”
Three years later Gillip was winning youth tournaments.
And now he’s beginning to make a name for himself nationally.
Gillip was named Golfweek magazine’s boys player of the week on March 10 after he won the Bear Creek East Open in Dallas.
In the past five months, Gillip also has fared well in tournaments in Florida and Arizona.
“I’ve been playing tournaments nationwide for a while, and that experience has been helping me,” Gillip said. “I’ve been playing well this year.”
Most of that is due to a work ethic that might be more impressive than any shots the 17-year-old makes.
“He has a God-given ability, but he’s put in a ton of work,” Las Vegas coach James Thurman said. “He’s the first one here and the last one to leave every day. He’s forever hitting golf balls.”
That work ethic has rubbed off on Gillip’s teammates. The Wildcats are the top team in the Northeast Division.
Austin Ogle, a senior, is second to Gillip in average score per round in the Northeast. Teammates Adam Perea and D.J. Padron also are in the top 10.
“He’s done as much with getting the team better as I have,” Thurman said about Gillip. “Ray is always getting the guys together and asking them to go play. Some of the kids have bought in.”
For the next week, though, Gillip’s primary focus is on helping his team advance to and compete at state.
Gillip was 30th in the state meet as a freshman and tied for ninth last season.
The Wildcats didn’t advance as a team either year. Coronado and Green Valley have grabbed the Sunrise’s two state berths each of the past three years.
“We’re doing really well this year,” Gillip said. “We’re keeping up with Coronado and Green Valley. We have a really good chance of getting to state.”
Not surprisingly, Gillip’s summer also already is filled with tournaments as he continues to prepare to play in college.
“I’d like to be in golf for the rest of my life,” he said. “The goal is to get a college scholarship and play college golf.”
The Sunset Region tournament is today at Red Rock with tee times beginning at noon.
Defending region champion Palo Verde, Bishop Gorman, Centennial, Bonanza and Arbor View will compete for the two state berths.
The state tournament begins May 12 at TPC Las Vegas.