Kids' Stories: Aces, 60s and Lost Clubs
There were at least 1,300 stories in the U.S. Kids Golf World Championship being staged in the Sandhills this past week, and here are just a couple of them.
Kyle Cox is a privileged young man. But he earned that privilege, winning his divisions in the championship as a 6-year-old and again last year at the age of 9. Along with those wins came a lifetime exemption into the championship events. Or at least until he turns 13.
Cox won last year by shooting rounds of 76-69-68 on Pinehurst Resort’s No. 8 course. He played at Little River Resort and Golf Club in the 10-year-old division this year and opened with a sizzling 68 on Thursday to take the first-round lead.
“I wouldn’t be surprised to be handing the trophy to Kyle on Saturday afternoon,” said Little River Director of Golf Marvin Waters.
Because of deadline concerns, the final results of the event won’t be published until a later edition, but persons wishing to check on Cox’s progress can do so by visiting the website at uskidsgolf.com.
Another story is that of Patricio Benavides. Patricio arrived on Wednesday afternoon without any issues, but the same couldn’t be said for his golf clubs, which apparently took a different flight and had not arrived in time for his opening round on Thursday.
That’s a traumatic experience even for a PGA Tour pro who can count on his equipment company to magically produce an identical set of clubs and jet them to him within hours. But that’s not quite the way it goes for a 10-year-old, even if he is one of those young phenoms.
Fortunately for Patricio, Little Rive accountant Laura Grillo had a set of junior clubs in her car and loaned him enough to play.
“I explained Rule 4-4 to Patricio’s dad/caddie, which allowed them to start with a certain amount of clubs, then round out the set with his own clubs when they arrive,” Waters said. “His clubs did arrive after the round started, and, so far, everyone has lived happily ever after.”
A much happier story is that of 10-year-old Amy Zhang, from Lake Mary, Fla., who scored a hole-in-one during a practice round at Little River on Monday.
Amy used a 3-wood to hole her tee shot on the 123-yard par-3 eighth hole for the first ace of her career.
There were two holes-in-one during the first round Thursday. The first tee was pushed into the ground at 7 a.m., and by 8 a.m., the World Championship had its first hole-in-one.
Li Shi, a 12-year-old from China, aced the 108-yard, fourth hole on Pinehurst No. 4. Playing in the 12-year-old boys’ division, Shi finished his round with a 78.
The other ace was carded by James Imai in the Boys 9 division, who holed out on the 96-yard fifth hole on Pinehurst No. 8.
Making a Mark
Wilson Furr, a 12-year-old from Jackson, Miss., and recipient of the 2010 Peggy Kirk Bell Award, is making quite a splash at the 2010 World Championship.
On Monday, Furr won the Boys 11-12 Parent/Child Championship with his dad, Bill Furr, by shooting a team score of 69.
On Tuesday, Furr sneaked in a practice round, and later that evening, he was able to meet Peggy Kirk Bell at Pine Needles. Bell was gracious enough to share a few of her many interesting stories with Wilson.
Playing in the Boys 12 division, Furr opened up the World Championship with a 76, which places him nine strokes behind leader Philip Barbaree, Shreveport, La., who shot a tournament low score of 67.
Tyler Hechtle, a 10-year-old fourth-grader from Millstone Township, N.J., had a special incentive to play well. His mother, Christine, recently underwent surgery for cancer of the appendix and was following her son’s progress in a wheelchair.
Tyler is a protege of Billy Britton, a former PGA Tour player.
While the World Championship is about competition and sportsmanship, the boys 6-year-olds would argue that it’s also about feeding the turtles.
To the left of the first tee at Midland Country Club sits a pond stocked full with turtles and carp. As the youngest players in the Championship waited to tee off, they’d throw copious amounts of Cheez-Its into the pond, sending the wildlife into a frenzy.
And who provides the Cheez-Its? Course director Don Law.
There were 32 states and 14 countries represented among the 135 10-year-olds playing at Little River. This is the fourth year that the 10-year-old division has been held at the Dan Maples-designed course and, according to Waters, “We’re delighted to have them. I just love seeing these kids shoot 5-under-par for three days, and that’s what the winner will be.”
The kids may be young and small, but they can hit a golf ball. They played from the men’s senior tees, a distance of some 5,200 yards.
“I’m impressed with how mature they are and how they act,” Waters said. “It’s amazing how they can play and how far they hit the ball. There are 10-year-olds hitting the same clubs I use from the same distance.”
The kids aren’t the only thing that impresses Waters about the event.
“Every year, I’m impressed with how organized it is,” he said, “and how much it’s grown. Pinehurst No. 8 and we held a parent-child tournament on Monday, and it was full. They had just planned on it being at No. 8, but it sold out as soon as they put it on the website. Most of the players at our place were from foreign countries because when it was announced they were all asleep, and the field at No. 8 was already full.”
U.S. Kids and the Pinehurst area are obviously a good fit.
“I don’t know if there’s another community in the United States that could host it,” Waters said. “I don’t think any other place would have the golf courses in the proximity or the volunteers that are needed or two weeks.
“I’m just not sure there’s anyplace else they could go.”
It’s certainly good business for the courses, the lodging places and restaurants in the area.
“Every kid has at least three people with them,” Waters said, “and some have even more. We have 64 units here, and they’re all filled.”
More like this story