Telling Ben Fox that he cannot use his golf clubs, even for a day, is like taking a teddy bear away from a child. Be wary of the consequences.
In December, during winter break from North Hollywood Oakwood, Fox reluctantly gave in to his parents' lobbying to join them on a family ski vacation in Mammoth.
For four days he was without his golf clubs, leaving Fox with few options.
"I pulled a few sticks out of the snow and swung a few times," he said.
Upon being reunited with his clubs, Fox still wasn't a happy camper.
"He claimed it took him two weeks to get his swing back," his father, James, said.
There will be no more vacations without golf clubs for Fox, one of the favorites to win next month's Southern Section individual championship.
Bound for Arizona on a golf scholarship, the 5-foot-7, 135-pound Fox has become the most accomplished athlete from Oakwood since Mitchell Butler earned a basketball scholarship to UCLA in 1989 and played eight years in the NBA.
Oakwood, with an enrollment of 310 high school students, is known for its arts programs and small class sizes. Fox chose sculpture as his arts focus, and he made a magnificent clay bust of golfer Ben Hogan.
Oakwood doesn't have a golf team, so Fox competes on a freelance basis. It means he has no coach, no teammates and no set practice schedule.
But the school has been very supportive, letting him miss classes on Fridays to play in weekend junior tournaments. And Oakwood assigns its physical education chairman, Eric Walter, to drive Fox to the Southern Section championship events.
Every day, Fox practices four to five hours, rain or shine."The challenge is striving for impossible perfection," he said. "I love the fact that no matter how naturally talented you are, you have to naturally grind it out day by day to be a top player. That's what drives me every day."
In 2003, he won the California State Junior Championship. Last year, he finished tied for sixth at the Southern Section individual final.
His private coach, Brady Riggs of Woodley Lakes Golf Course, is convinced Fox can be a top player for years to come.
"He's a tour-caliber golfer in a high-school-age body," Riggs said. "His game is incredibly mature. There's no weaknesses, and that's scary. He's the best ball striker I've ever seen."
Fox's ability to hit the ball 280 yards with tremendous consistency gives him an advantage. That's why he's so protective of his swing and insists on practicing every day.
"It's probably the hardest sport there is," Fox said. "I took four days off, and it took two weeks to get back. Golf is such a precision game. There's no slacking off."
His father, a lawyer and a 1972 Oakwood graduate, jokes that if his son makes it one day on the PGA Tour, "He'll be the only golfer that's had six years of sculpture classes."