Roman Solomon is trying to make a name for himself.
Put an emphasis on himself. It's not an easy thing to do when your father is a former professional athlete, but Solomon is off to a strong start all the same.
Solomon, who lives in Sarasota and is a sophomore at IMG Academy, is an aspiring golfer. It's a sport he first picked up while hanging out with his father, six-time MLB All-Star Bobby Bonilla. Solomon said that as a 6- year-old he would join his father whenever he played a round. Solomon would hit balls from the middle of the fairway — not very far or accurately, mind you, but hey, everyone has to learn somehow.
Eventually, Solomon got the fundamentals down. He played other sports too, such as basketball, which he still loves. He even has basketball emblems on his golf balls. But in the end, golf was the sport for him.
"You're out there by yourself," Solomon said of the golf experience. "It's all on you. You call the shots and you make the mistakes. There's no coaching during a round like in other sports. Either you can play or you cannot."
Solomon likes the pressure. Solomon said Bonilla has told him not to think about it too much, to go out to the course and play, and trust that his skills will be enough to carry him through. Keep it simple, in other words. It worked for Bonilla in baseball and it's working for Solomon in golf.
The proof? On Aug. 30, Solomon participated in perhaps the biggest event of his career, the inaugural Underrated Golf Curry Cup at TPC Harding Park in San Francisco. If you're wondering what the "Curry" in Curry Cup is referencing, that would be Golden State Warriors superstar Steph Curry, who helped start Underrated Golf as a way to increase the sport's participation in diverse communities.
But make no mistake: getting to play in the Curry Cup (which had partnership from the American Junior Golf Association) was no handout. Only 13 boys golfers and 13 girls golfers qualified for the event after playing in four qualifying events across the country.
Upon arrival, Solomon immediately noticed a different feel to the event.
"It stood out to me how many kids that looked like me were there," Solomon said. "It was cool. Definitely different (than most tournament he plays), but I think in a good way. I know it was a great experience for me personally. I knew a couple kids there from before but meeting other kids and seeing where they were from was cool."
Even the aesthetics of the event were unique. There was a DJ playing music on the first day, for instance. And it must be nerve-wracking, even for a cool customer like Solomon, to concentrate on a putt when he knows Steph Curry is watching.
But Solomon overcame the pressure, like he's been trained by his dad to do. Solomon won the event: after shooting 2-under par in round one — three strokes behind the leader — Solomon repeated the feat in round two, tying Jaxson Kenzo for the lead and then, eventually, winning in a playoff.
He received his trophy from Curry himself.
"He told me 'great job' and to keep working hard," Solomon said. "We took a picture together and I made the 'night night' celebration with my hands. It was pretty funny."
Solomon put his hands into a sleeping position as he said that, re-creating the moment. It may be slightly embarrassing, but he'll never forget it. Solomon got to meet other celebrities too, such as golf stars Collin Morikawa and Michelle Wie West, the latter of whom surprised Solomon by how tall she is. (She's either 6-foot-0 or 6-foot-1 according to various websites. )
Solomon's story is far from over. Later this week he will be traveling to Philadelphia to play in an Advocates Pro Golf Association Tour event at Bluestone Country Club. The APGA, much like Underrated Golf, is designed to bring more diversity to the game of golf, but at the pro level. At the Bluestone event, Solomon will be playing against — and in pairings with — those pros.
For Solomon, it's a glimpse at a potential future. He's not going to IMG for nothing. Solomon, at the very least, wants to play at a high collegiate level. If he can go pro after that, he will. It would buck the trends: there are only two Black men in the top 100 world golf rankings, according to the Underrated website. (On the girls' side, there's only one Black player in the top 300.) That's why it is so important events like these exist. It makes young players believes that their dreams are possible to achieve.
Solomon certainly does. He's a confident player. He is, to the best of my recollection, the only junior golfer I have interviewed who listed his putting skills as a major strength, if that tells you anything.
I'm not betting against him. He's got a pretty good mentor at home, giving him advice on how to reach the apex of a sport, and he's got the tools.
Remember the name now, so you won't have to later.
Ryan Kohn is the sports editor for Sarasota and East County and a Missouri School of Journalism graduate. He was born and raised in Olney, Maryland. His biggest inspirations are Wright Thompson and Alex Ovechkin. His strongest belief is that mint chip ice cream is unbeatable.