Home' Australian Golf Digest : October 2017 Contents 68 australiangolfdigest.com.au | october 2017
THE first week of August in Pinehurst, North
Carolina, there’s a tradition unlike any
other. Last year, 1,552 players representing
52 countries came to take on 10 courses. It’s
the major of all junior majors: the US Kids
World Championship. Perhaps you saw the
Netflix documentary “The Short Game”,
which followed a group of competitors and
their parents at the 2012 tournament. The
kids compete in nine and 18-hole events,
and everyone plays three rounds. Remember
when you were 6? You probably weren’t
grinding out 27 holes of strokeplay.
I’d flown from New York with the idea
I’d see what made golf click for these kids.
Gratification these days is as immediate
as a like on Instagram, so why are all these
youngsters choosing a game that takes so
much time and effort? And just how did they
get so good?
To be honest, I had reservations. First, I
was worried about hanging out with a bunch
of kids who can kick my butt on the golf
course. It doesn’t feel good to see a 7-year-old
with a smoother action than you. Second,
and apologies for sounding judgmental, but
I was worried some of the parents could be,
well, a little nuts.
One of these fears came true: these kids
are darn good. Sihan Sandhu from Virginia
shot 23-under par to win the 10-year-old boys
division. That’s 23-under, over three rounds,
on a course set up at 4,756 metres. That’s
probably about the distance of the forward
tees at your course.
The other fear was misplaced. Sure, many
of these parents have spent a lot of money
on their kids’ golf careers, from travel to
equipment to swing coaches. I met one boy
from Hungary who travels with his family
to the south of Spain for a month during
the winter to practise. One girl from India
had a swing coach and a trainer. But after
sitting down with 30 kids and their parents,
overwhelmingly, I found the kids to be the
ones driving the need to play golf.
“She wants to practise every day,” David
Errichetto told me about his daughter,
Isabella, 9. “I try to take her to the course
only a few days a week, but then she’ll be out
in the backyard practising by herself. I can’t
Carson Higginbotham, 7, from Clarksburg,
West Virginia, was my first interview. Fearing
I’d intimidate him by sitting down with my
notebook and pen, I offered to have a putting
contest while we talked with my tape recorder
running. I asked if he had any drills he liked.
“I don’t like drills,” he said in his sweet
Southern twang. “I just like hammering it.”
From there, the interview quickly turned
into Carson spending all of his energy seeing
what would happen if we putted balls down
a set of stairs at the Carolina Hotel. I was able
to briefly break his focus to get more insight.
When it comes to putting, “I don’t like
thinking about break,” Carson says. “If you hit
it hard enough, there’s never any break.”
Not every kid took such a valiant attitude,
but each did cite the short game as the most
important part of playing.
“I love practising short game because a
lot of people who hit long balls get up to the
green and they’re a mess,” says Madison
Moman, 9, from Palm Beach Gardens,
Florida. Though she doesn’t always need her
short game – she’s had three holes-in-one.
Every kid seemed to offer some spin of the
same advice: short game is going to help you
score, so you have to practise it. End of story.
Though some had particular methods.
“ When I go out and practise on the putting
green, I just use one ball,” says Thady White,
8, from Brighton, England. “ You only have
one ball on the course. You don’t have 60
million balls on the course.”
Either these kids have teachers who have
synthesised the game really well for them,
or there’s something about a child’s brain
that’s especially deft at filtering what’s going
to help during a round from what isn’t.
And when it comes to finding that balance
of staying happy and focused, Tommy
Morrissey, 5, of Palm Beach Gardens, has a
“Put on music and dance to have more
fun,” Tommy says. He recommends such
tunes as “Turn Down For What” by DJ Snake
and Lil Jon, “My House” by Flo Rida, and
anything that Bruno Mars sings. Tommy
filip grave / 8
‘IT DOESN’T FEEL GOOD
TO SEE A 7-YEAR-OLD
WITH A SMOOTHER ACTION
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