Student Athlete of the Month: Byer key to Whittell golf success
South Tahoe senior baseball player Chris Pfister was this month’s runner up for the male Tribune Student Athlete of the Month.
The first time Alex Byer tried golf, he hated it. He was in a group being taught lessons at Edgewood Tahoe Golf Course and he couldn’t get away fast enough.
A couple of years later during his freshman year at George Whittell High School, the senior tried it again and had the opposite reaction.
Now he loves it.
He went from hating the sport to six years later not giving up and determinedly finishing his high school career barefoot in the Nevada state championship after having his feet soaked by a sprinkler head on the back nine.
“I started to appreciate everything about it my freshman year,” said Byer, also a second team All-League football player for the Warriors. “I feel much more appreciation that somebody can go through life and continue to play golf and love it. I watched and seen some football games but I never enjoyed that. Golf I love watching on TV.”
Byer played as the Warriors No. 1 player this season and helped advance the team to the state championship where it finished fourth.
He has been named the Tribune’s Student-Athlete of the Month for April.
“When I was nominated, I thought I wasn’t worthy,” Byer said. “I was a little surprised out of everybody, why me? We’ve got great players like Patrick (Smorra), Zach (Johns) and Jon (Duffy). I thought I was all over the place with my scores. I tried not to get my hopes up, but I felt better once I heard I won. It’s great to have some opportunities like this and I definitely didn’t expect this.”
“That is great he won the award,” said Whittell head coach Steve Maltase. “Alex spends a lot of time in the off-season traveling to Reno for golf lessons. He had a really consistent year and was a medal winner at zone (Nevada northern region tournament), was a four-year varsity golfer, participated in four state finals and was an all-around good guy in our program.”
Byer didn’t grow up in the Tahoe Basin, but was born 6,000 miles away in Moscow, Russia where he lived until age 9 before he and his parents, Keith and Viktoria, and older sister Olga (Nicole) moved to Glenbrook.
“It’s a lot warmer here than in Russia,” Byer said.
He wasn’t completely immersed with Russian lifestyle and attended an international school that taught English. To get to school, his parents rented a taxi service because they lived so far away.
“My parents tried to teach me Russian in the beginning but I always answered back in English,” Byer said. “It was just always natural for me, much easier. The wording in Russian is crazy. You sometimes say names backwards, it’s just weird.”
Byer will graduate this June and move to Texas where he will “hold the power of the sun” as his dad says.
He will attend Texas State Technical College and learn the craft of welding. He and his parents, since he was a junior, were trying to find a job that held his interest. During Christmas break this past December, Byer found the answer.
“We go to visit my family in Texas for Christmas, that’s where the majority of the family is,” Byer said. “One of my cousins, said ‘I’m gonna teach you how to weld for your birthday.’ He took me down to his shop and taught me the basics and I fell in love with the work. I had on a helmet and he taught me the basic maneuvers of trying to weld my name on an iron bar and I fell in love with the process.”
He’ll live about 3 miles away from his family in Waco, Texas, a place he says will suit his lifestyle a little better than Tahoe. His dad has already got him a membership at the golf course there and his mom is thinking about furniture options for his new place.
And he wanted to make sure he acknowledged some of the help he has gotten along the way.
“I’m thankful to Edgewood for allowing me to practice and also for donating money to the team,” Byer said. “I’m glad we were able to look presentable this year. I ‘d like to thank Marshall Roenigk, my golf instructor in Reno, he helped drop my scores a lot. I’d also like to thank Maltase for giving me mental support throughout the year.”