US Kids World Championship 2009

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U S Kids World Championship

Boys 9

Pinehurst No. 8

Dan Van Horn and the Boys 9 Top Five

Kyle returned to Pinehurst, North Carolina for the fourth time, to compete in the US Kids Golf World Championship.  Now in its tenth year, the event hosted over 1300 golfers from all over the world.  For Kyle and 142 other nine year olds, it was going to be a big change for them.  Now they would be playing 18 holes each day, instead of 9 and the yardages would be significantly longer overall.  In fact, Boys 9 has the largest jump from local level yardage, to world championship yardage - as well as going from 9 holes locally, to 18 holes at World's.
Kyle was more than ready for the challenge and he was determined that he would bring home the first place trophy to sit along side the previous World Championship award he had received as a 6 year old. It was one of the reasons we were happy that The Lone Star Memorial and Southwest Junior Open allows boys to play 18 holes starting at age 8 - so Kyle was physically ready.

This year we arrived at Pinehurst on Sunday instead of Monday.  We wanted a minimum of 2 full days to do practice rounds, and with the yardages originally laid out by US Kids, Kyle shot an incredible 67 on Tuesday.  That afternoon we let Kyle take a half-hour swim, to relax his muscles and cool down.

Unfortunately, that night, as Kyle was getting ready for bed, he said he didn't feel well and sure enough he had a fever of 102.  He insisted he wasn't going to drop out and so he took tylenol and motrin and though the fever would go down, it wasn't gone.  Since he had already played two full practice rounds and had done so well, Paul decided to just play the front 9 on Wednesday, the official practice round day, so we could get back to the hotel and let him rest and get lots of fluids.  Which was just as well, since it rained shortly after we left and he wouldn't have been able to finish all 18 anyway.  In addition, we found out that some of the holes on the front 9 had been shortened when some of the parents complained about the length of the course being too long. 

Wasn't going to bother us - Kyle was still playing well, with or without a fever.


Kyle's Good Luck Fans

Our best news came with the arrival of Tom and Betty Anderson - the wonderful couple we first met back in 2006 when they followed Kyle's 2nd and winning rounds at Midland CC in route to becoming a World Champion.  They came down last year for Kyle's 2nd round - which was his best round that year.  We're convinced that they're the best good luck charms you could ever hope for.  In 2006, they followed Kyle on the 2 rounds he had the lowest score on and when they followed him last year on the 2nd round - it was his lowest round.

This time, they had made arrangements to follow Kyle all three days.  They were wonderfully encouraging and it was just awesome that they cared so much.  As usual, we had one of the earliest tee times; but at least it wouldn't be in the heat of the day since Kyle was still recovering.  The Andersons walked all 18 holes with us and we were paired with Miguel Vega from Mexico.  We'd first met Miguel and his dad at the Texas Mexico Cup in 2007.  Even though Kyle shot 76 on the first round, he was only 4 shots back from the lead.  Incredibly, no one was under par after the first round. And even though the fevers kept coming back, Kyle said he felt okay and wasn't about to let this opportunity slip by.  Eighteen holes to make up a 4 shot deficit - Kyle wasn't worried.  Especially since he knew he had played the holes under par earlier in the week.

As far as he was concerned - he was just warming up.

The All Left-handed Grouping
Brandon Mancheno(Florida) - Trent Phillips (S. Carolina) & Kyle

Well, this was a first for us.  Round 2 had us in the third to last group and everyone commented how unusual it was for all three boys to be Left-handed.  It was really great to play the round with Brandon, who we had never met before and Trent Phillips.  Trent won last year's World Championship, with Kyle taking second, but we hadn't played a round with him until the final round with at Jekyll Island, earlier in the year.   Now, Kyle knew exactly where he stood and he went out and proceeded to shoot a 3-under par 69.  Kyle had a great round and he made up ground in a big way as he was only 1 of 5 golfers who were under par after the 2nd day. His 69 was the lowest score of the past two days.  He was now tied for 2nd with Solomon, from New York and one shot back of the current leader, Frankie Capan from Minnesota; meaning that of the 8 golfers who started out the day ahead of him - only 1 was ahead now and he was tied with the other.

Trent's dad, Frankie & Brandon watch Kyle's 2nd round tee shot

And follow through

While we were ecstatic that Kyle would be in the final group, we knew we really had to keep Kyle hydrated and rested since the last day was predicted to be the hottest yet.  While the fever and cough, never really went away, he did seem much better than before.  We all tried to get plenty of rest that night.

Kyle - Solomon - Frankie

The sun was shining, the humidity was high but as you can see, the boys were ready to go.  Frankie Capan was at 144, Kyle and Solomon Thompson were 145, AJ Beechler (N. Carolina) and Brandon Mancheno (Florida) - 146 and Brian Terlesky (Ohio) and Trent Phillips (S. Carolina) were 147.  Seven players separated by only 3 shots.  This was going to be close. 

Kyle was wearing his favorite: orange and it was great to see Solomon dressed to pay tribute to Sam Snead.  Kyle had played with Solomon last year, in the 2nd to last group when he, Kyle and Galven Green had all shot 36.

It was the final 18 holes and Kyle started off with a bang and proceeded to shoot a 33 on the front 9, quickly distancing himself from Frankie who made the turn with 36 and Solomon a 37.  We hoped Kyle was now in the lead, but we couldn't be sure - no one would tell us how the two groups ahead of us were doing. . .

Until we reached 16.

Kyle made his first bogey on 13, putting him 4 under for the round through 15.  We hoped that Kyle had a solid lead over the group ahead of us, but we found out that it was Trent -  two groups ahead, who was making the charge.  He was going into 17 at 5 under par.

By now, the crowds following our group was growing in numbers and it truly looked like a PGA event.  The cart path was lined with so many spectators including Kyle's first coach, Wesley Frances , Noah and his parents, fellow training friends Hogan and Hailey Jones with their father, Brian and so many of the golfers who had already completed their rounds as well as US Kids officials and all the volunteers.  I was so nervous that I didn't even think to take pictures of the final two holes, or how the spectators had gathered. 

Kyle kept his cool, though.  He birdied the par-4 16th hole to get to 5-under and made his way to the par-5 17th as Trent was playing 18.  Kyle hit a long tee shot but it landed in the rough and he put his 2nd shot just short of the green next to a tree.  He had no choice but to punch it back to the fairway and his fourth shot landed on the front of the green.  His par putt missed and now Kyle was back to 4-under. But what was going on ahead?

Jeff Goodwin volunteered to find out how Trent finished.  It was a 67: he was 5-under after he bogied 18.  We quickly did the math.  Trent had started out the day 2 shots behind Kyle but now was only 1 shot back.

So, it would come down to the final hole.  Kyle had to make par or better after struggling on 17.  A bogey meant a playoff and a double-bogey would put Kyle in 2nd.  I had to believe that Kyle's temperment would carry him through - he had never been one to let a bad hole get him down and he'd been in pressure situations before.

I felt like I could barely breathe, and completely forgot about my camera - but Kyle was in the zone.  His tee shot was perfect: down the middle, leaving him just 92 yards to the flag; letting us all know that the bogey on 17 was a distant memory.

His second shot was absolutely incredible - leaving him about 15 feet to the hole.  I finally remembered my camera.

Kyle finishes the hole with a par. The hole is just right of the putter, just above his shadow.

You can see in the picture just how close Kyle came to making a birdie, but he made that par putt and at last he had reclaimed the title of World Champion and was able to amend that to: 2-Time World Champion.

It had been a tight race right to the end.  Kyle's 3-day total was 213 and Trent's 214.  Patrick Welch (RI) made it to the podium for the first time, winning a scorecard playoff with Brian Terlesky (Ohio), who had finished 2nd behind Kyle in 2006.  Both boys had a 3-day total of 218. AJ Beechler (NC) took the 5th place trophy; also in a scorecard playoff with Frankie Capan and the total 219. 

After three days of golf, there were only 4 rounds in the 60's and Kyle had 2 of them.  He and Brian were the only ones to have 2 rounds under par and only 6 others had a single round under par after 3 days of competition.

The course is breathtakingly beautiful


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