Solomon: With ex-Rocket for a father, Allyn Stephens has zooming golf career


The most entertaining moment of a conversation with Allyn Stephens and her father Joe was the look on the teenager’s face when she talked about being “forced” to watch clips of her father playing basketball.

She almost doubled over in laughter. Guffawed, actually.


“He loves showing those videos,” Allyn said when she caught her breath. “But it’ll be specific ones that you’ll see, over and over and over.

“I think he’s hiding something.”

Allyn Stephens is an up-and-coming golfer with big-time potential. Just 16 years old, the Kinkaid School junior has a mature calm about her that serves her well on the course.

She has won some 75 tournaments, including the girls 14-18 division of the Notah Begay III Junior Golf National Championship that will air on Golf Channel on Wednesday night.

Allyn’s relationship with her dad, one that allows her to joke about his basketball career since she wasn’t alive to see it, also will be a considerable benefit to her athletic pursuits.

As colleges come after her — she has long worn Stanford gear because Tiger Woods played there — working through the recruitment process will be easier because her father went through it in the early 1990s.

Joe Stephens has no doubt Allyn can one day play on the level of the pros competing at the U.S. Women’s Open at Champions Golf Club this week. She nearly qualified for the U.S. Amateur and will try again next year.

She expects to among the best.

“That’s the goal: to just be like Tiger Woods,” she said. “Basically, you always want to strive to be the best.”

In an interview for “Texas Sports Nation In-Depth,” which airs on AT&T SportsNet Southwest, she says she has an advantage because of the coach behind the coach.

“Definitely, especially with work ethic and practice,” Allyn said. “If I didn’t have him, I wouldn’t know what it took to really be amazing. You know, you come out here for two hours every day and think like, ‘Oh yeah, this is enough,’ but it’s not.

“You need that extra. You need that four hours a day or more, honestly. That whole 10,000 hours, I mean, it’s important. It really is. And I wouldn’t know anything about that if it wasn’t for him.”

The chuckles and adorable rolling eyes of his daughter aside, Joe Stephens was a superb athlete who knows what it takes to compete at the highest levels.

An all-state basketball selection in 1991, when he led North Shore to the state semifinals, Stephens played at Colorado and Arkansas-Little Rock, then went undrafted before getting a shot with his hometown Rockets, with whom he won an invite to training camp.

Stephens did enough in the preseason to earn a roster spot. He scored 18 points in his first preseason game with the Rockets, led the team in scoring in two games, and had the team’s best field-goal percentage (.611) and 3-point percentage during camp.

But he got caught in a numbers game.

“I’ve had guys who played not as well as he does and make the team in previous years,” Rockets coach Rudy Tomjanovich said after Stephens was one of the final roster cuts in 1996. “He played outstanding basketball.”

Stephens eventually spent a couple harrowing months playing in South America before signing a 10-day contract with the Rockets. While that agreement was voided by the NBA because of legal issues with his contract in Argentina, Stephens played for the Rockets the next season.

After a stop in Utah, a stint with Vancouver, and some basketball in Europe, Stephens returned to Houston to go into business. A desire to serve the community led to his being voted onto the Galena Park ISD School Board of Trustees in 2009 and elected Justice of the Peace for Harris County Precinct 1 three years ago.

Accomplished, indeed, but he is not uncomfortable with the idea of someday being known as Allyn Stephens’ dad.

“I’m extremely proud,” Stephens said. “Every challenge you give her, she seems to conquer it. Every league you put her in, she ends up winning. And I think more so than the athletic side of it, she’s a great person. A great, great person. Integrity.

“If it’s a penalty, she’s going to self-report. She’s going to play by the rules. She’s respectful of her fellow competitors.

“There’s nothing that brings me more joy than in the middle of a dogfight golf tournament, when you’re battling it out with another little girl, her and this kid are walking up and down the fairway, just having a conversation. Just being kids.”

Allyn’s honest assessment of her golf game is straightforward.

“I feel like I play very boring golf,” she said. “It’s just like, you know, fairway, green, two-putt. Just like kind of consistent like that.

“I feel like it’s very basic, but it works. So I’m not going to complain about it.”

Yes. I’m jealous.

Joe Stephens, who was a very good junior golfer before a growth spurt opened the door for basketball, had to learn to back off in Allyn’s competitions. Unlike in basketball, a midgame push in golf is more likely to break one’s concentration.

“It’s such an emotional roller coaster when you’re out there watching your kid,” Stephens said. “What I’ve had to realize is the coaching comes … in practice. If you’ve done a good job, the tournament is the fun part. That’s where she shows what she’s learned.

“I’ve had enough experience to know that when I interject myself into her tournaments, it doesn’t turn out good.”

Allyn recalls having a five-birdie run in a tournament at Pinehurst come to a screeching halt after her dad passed on word that she should forgo the driver for a 3-wood on the next hole.

“Oh my gosh … I was on a roll that day, and he said one thing on the 15th hole, and I went like 5-over in four holes,” Allyn said. “It was bad.”

The smile on her face lets you know she has put the experience in a good perspective. Of course, the question of whether her difficult finish was dad’s fault brings about more laughter.

“All of it, totally,” she said grinning.

Poor dad.

Good dad.

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