Steamboat Springs Not long ago, this would have seemed like a long shot.
Keegan Burger was an adequate tennis player with good athletic skills. He was athletic enough that after originally learning to play tennis left-handed, he learned to play right-handed — his more dominant side — his freshman year.
But there always was something holding Burger back — mainly the six inches between his ears.
Last summer, something changed. The court tantrums were done, the mind games were gone and the mental side of the game finally started to come around.
Now Burger, a Steamboat Springs High School senior, will play college tennis at Rollins College in Florida, one of the top Division II programs in the nation.
“I think the biggest factor is mentally,” Steamboat coach John Aragon said. “His mental toughness is what really has added to his athleticism. He’s taken charge of himself and what he has to do.”
The scary thing, however, is that Burger is just starting to sniff his potential on the tennis court.
In learning to play right-handed, though he still serves left-handed, Burger started slow in his high school career. But as he developed physically and emotionally, he became one of the best players in the state.
He finished last year fourth
at state, and this summer, he’s arguably been one of the best players in the state.
He won the 18-year-old division at the Meadow Creek Junior Open in March, where he beat a pair of Colorado state champions in the semifinals and finals.
He’s the fourth-ranked Colorado player in the boys 18-year-old division.
“He’s just scratching the surface as far as tennis goes,” Steamboat coach Don Toy said. “He’ll get better and better in college. Last summer, he improved immensely. It was amazing to see him hit the ball. That’s just hard work. Hand it to Keegan for his work ethic.”
Burger knew he wanted to play tennis in college; the problem was finding a school he was interested in.
He drew interest from a plethora of Division III schools, and Mesa State College in Grand Junction had extended a scholarship offer.
He was on a recruiting visit to Eckerd College in Florida when he decided to check out Rollins. He worked with the coach and team, and a scholarship offer soon followed.
“Tennis was pretty much all I knew for college,” Burger said. “I narrowed it down to both schools in Florida. Rollins just seemed to fit.”
Burger is unsure where he will start his career, but he will most likely play as a low singles player or on a doubles teams.
Rollins finished the year 17-9 and lost in the first round of the NCAA tournament.
Burger will head to Florida in August to start playing with the team. He said he is nervous and excited, but he said this has been something he has hoped would come.
Considering where he was a couple of years ago, it’s been quite the turnaround.
“I really buckled down and focused on tennis,” Burger said. “I knew it was a passion of mine. After I got over my mental game, I improved a lot. Now I’m able to focus my energy at each point and trying to win.”
To reach Luke Graham, call 970-871-4229 or email lgraham@SteamboatToday.com