I had intended to make this post in late August, with my new website finished before the school year started. But of course life, teaching, and other distractions got in the way and here we are now, two months later. I'm happy to report that the site has been updated and I can finally start blogging about new adventures and learning along the way. First up is my nephew, Jacob, and his experience at the U.S. Kids Golf World Championship in Pinehurst, NC. In order to qualify for this tournament, Jacob had to shoot under 40 twice in a U.S. Kids Golf Tour or place first.
He did both.
Now as someone who came in knowing nothing about golf, I didn't realize how impressive that feat was. Did I mention the kid is 8-years-old? Needless to say, I was excited to witness him compete at the highest level and am even more excited to share his story through my photographs.
Day 1 started at around 11am at Mid Pines Inn & Golf Club. By that time, the sun was at its peak, and as a California resident all my life, I was melting in the humidity. It didn't seem to bother Jacob though as he had his game face on right from the start. The course itself, however, proved to be a challenge as most of the greens were surrounded by sand traps. Jacob had been practicing a new swing leading up to the tournament, and the slightest inaccuracy had him camping in the roughs and bunkers.
The course at Mid Pines was beautiful; it was hard to not appreciate the moment even if you weren't the biggest golf fan. Seeing my nephew on the course served as a great reminder to where hard work and dedication can lead. Jacob's swing wasn't connecting like he wanted and the moments of frustrations were apparent, but he never let that break his spirit. This kid is a competitor through and through. As soon as the scores came out, lunch was forgotten.
He shot a 47 for the day.
We got back to the Airbnb a little after 2pm; we were staying with some friends whose daughter, Liv, was also competing in the tournament. Jacob and Liv's friendship and shared love for golf is another highlight of the trip. Their paths are quite parallel at the moment: aspiring golfers, younger siblings who don't share the same interests, coached by their daddy caddies, etc.
I would think that after a full nine holes of golf, the kids would want to relax. But I forget how much energy kids have! Luckily, there was plenty to do, with the highlight being the swimming pool out back. Everyone joined in on the fun–– the younger siblings kicking in their floaties and the adults helping facilitate a game of Marco Polo. Jacob was having a blast! It was nice to see him out of golf mode and back into kid mode. It was short-lived when a fish throwing competition against his Uncle John made him put his game face back on. Spoiler alert: Jacob won.
The next day, everyone was up bright and early since Jacob's tee time was 7:45am. An early bird I am not, but on the East Coast, I was happy to get an early jump on the day before the heat and humidity kicked in. The first couple holes felt like deja vu. Jacob continued to struggle with his drives, but would make up for it in solid chipping and putting. Overall, he did better than day one despite scoring the same. There were a couple holes that had a few missed putts, resulting in a total of 47 again.
Heading into the final day of the tournament, I was looking forward to photographing a little less and just enjoying the moment. I've learned so much about golf from Jacob and my brother, Frank, over the past months and just wanted to soak it all in. There's so much precision in the sport: measuring distance, knowing which club to use, measuring and setting up a line when putting, etc. I would not have the patience to partake in the sport, but I did enjoy watching it all unfold, especially all the daddy caddie moments between Frank and his son. Some of my favorite pictures where just the candids of them on the course or enjoying down time together.
My brother took a different approach to coaching Jacob the final day. He told him to give up on the new swing they practiced all month and just "do whatever feels comfortable." It was night and day. Jacob's drives were landing on the fairway. He didn't even touch a bunker until the last hole. My favorite memory of the trip was during Hole 12, Frank came up to those of us watching and whispered "My god, I think I broke my kid!" He was joking of course, but Jacob ended up shooting a 42, pushing him up into the top 100.
The last day of the tournament was definitely my favorite. I think all the pressure was off, and Jacob just played golf. He even got a Michigan marker from his opponent. Now that he knows it's a thing to trade makers, we will be sure to bring some extra Cal ones for future tournaments. And I know there will be many tournaments to come. So stayed tuned!