– There are many firsts in a person's life — first day of kindergarten, crush, home run and so forth.
On Thursday, former UT Tyler golfer Brandon Ellis will tee it up for the first time as a professional in the 40th Chesapeake Energy Texas State Open at The Cascades Golf Club.
Ellis, a native of Village Mills, started playing golf at a young age thanks to his father, who grew up in Frankston, and began playing competitively at age 9.
He later took his game to Warren High School, where he was a member of the golf team for four years and earned Class 2A all-state honors three times. He also played quarterback and point guard.
Ellis joined the UT Tyler golf team after high school, where he said things didn't start out well.
“I sent coach (King) Campbell my résumé and he gave me a spot,” Ellis said. “The first year and a half I struggled and couldn't break 80 at times and went from instructor to instructor. But I got hooked up with Bobby Ennis, who I live with now, got a new set of clubs and started taking lessons from Sean Sciba.”
Ellis admitted that Sciba, the head pro at The Cascades, is owed a lot of credit for his transformation.
“We changed my swing, we worked on course management and how to play golf,” Ellis said. “I really took everything to heart, and it couldn't have worked out better.”
As a sophomore, Ellis won his first collegiate tournament in the UT-Dallas Spring Classic at Sherrill Park Golf Course in Richardson.
The following year, the team earned an at-large bid into the NCAA Division III National Championship at PGA Village in Port St. Lucie, Fla.
Ellis finished sixth as an individual and earned second-team All-America honors. The team brought home fourth.
In his final year at UT Tyler, Ellis picked up victories at the Schreiner Spring Shootout at Comanche Trace and at the American Southwest Conference championship tournament at Ram Rock Golf Course in Marble Falls.
The team also won the conference tournament — the first in program history — by a record 34 strokes, and advanced to the national tournament in Hershey, Pa. Ellis led the eighth-place team with a 31st-place finish.
Ellis earned a spot on the PING All-America third team for his performance in 2010.
All of that has led to this week, when Ellis hands the bag to his friend Bobby and joins 143 other golfers hoping for a Texas State Open title.
“It couldn't be a better situation playing at Cascades, my home course,” he said. “It's going to be pretty comfortable. I know the nerves are going to be there, but I've played in big golf tournaments before, so I really don't think that's going to be an issue.”
“I'm just more excited than anything,” Ellis continued. “I qualified in late June, and I'm just ready to get it going. I'm hitting the ball really well right now, and just more-or-less ready to get the week started.”
Ellis qualified for the tournament on June 21 at The Cascades. His 5-under 67 earned him one of three spots up for grabs that day.
Ellis said the only concern he has with his game is inside 100 yards, and he knows it's going to take four rounds under par to win.
“You have to play your game and take advantage of the par fives,” he said. “If you play the first four holes even or under par you've done well, and the same goes for the first three holes on the back nine.”
Ellis gets his first round under way at 1:06 p.m. Thursday on No. 10 with Zach Cleland of Wichita, Kan., and David Studebaker of Wichita Falls.