The Day I Got Schooled in Golf By an 8 Year Old

I was an over confident twenty-two year old who thought he was pretty good at golf.  I could hit the ball well over three hundred yards (not always straight though) and felt good with having an 11 handicap.  However, this would all change when I was asked to watch my nephew for the day.  My sister Cheryl told me that, “One thing you can do with him is play golf. He likes to play golf. In fact, he can really play and hit the ball 200 yards.” Now I was thinking to myself, there is no way this little 8 year old kid can hit the ball that far, let alone have any kind of consistency.  I just felt like my sister was like every other proud parent who believes that their kid has some super power or are a phenom.

We have all heard the embellishments coming from parents all over the nation, ” my kid can throw 80 miles an hour and he is only 5 years old”, or “my kid is going to be a pro football player” or “my kid can dunk a basketball and he is only 6 years old.” So, naturally I took my sisters accolades about my nephew with a grain of salt.

My nephew came down out to the car with his little bag of clubs and was well dressed.  I have to admit he was such a cute little kid growing up with his blonde hair and smile.   He was wearing a white polo shirt, plaid bermuda shorts and a fitted blue hat. I put our clubs in the car and headed off to The Wentworth Country Club in Jackson, NH.

It was a saturday morning and my nephew and I walked into the clubhouse only to be greeted with stiff old members looking at us like we didn’t belong there.  I asked if there was any tee times for a two some. The club pro said, “is he (pointing to my nephew) playing with you. Because we want to keep the play moving along.” Being a little protective I told the ornery pro, “that my nephew and I would be keeping things moving and that if we cause any problems then we will get off the course.”  The pro and the other members viewed my nephew as a detriment to the other golfers on the course, thinking that he is just a little kid. Reluctantly, he let us play.

On the first tee, still feeling a little apprehensive about the little guys ability, I told him to hit off the women’s tees.  I figured that he really couldn’t hit the ball like my sister said, hitting off the women’s tee would have been a shorter distance to the hole for him.  But my plan didn’t work.  He looked up at me and said, “why do I have to hit off the women’s tees? I play from the men’s tees.” Oh great! I am thinking to myself. Now we are going to be holding people up and we will upset the members.

The little guy steps up to the ball and cracks it way right, into the thick rough behind a mound of dirt and tree.  In my mind I am thinking to myself, here we go. Where was that 200 yard drive that my sister said he can do?  I hit my ball into the fairway and we both moved on to the next shot. My nephew headed into rough with a club.  I yelled across the fairway, “just take the ball out of the rough and put it into the fairway. You don’t have to hit it out of that stuff.” Then with a confident humble tone he replied, ” No Uncle Daryl I don’t have to, I can hit out the rough.”  Now I am thinking this is going to be a long, long day.  Then suddenly the little dude swings and strikes the ball. The ball clears the tree and lands on the green four feet from the hole.  I stood there in astonishment.  Boy was that a lucky shot.  We both made par and moved onto the next hole.

I drove my ball about three hundred yards to the left side of the green. My nephew hit it better on this drive, down to the right side of the fairway about 150 yards.  I told him I would meet him on the green. I messed up my second shot and ended up making a bogey on the hole.  I asked him what he made on the hole and said par.  In disbelief I counted up his shots to confirm.  Sure enough that little stinker made a par. I was thinking that is just a lucky couple of holes for him.

For the next few holes my game started to decline.  I was quietly building up an intense anxiety inside thinking to myself– I CAN’T LET THIS LITTLE GUY BEAT ME! I never led on showing my frustration.  I continued to compliment my nephew on every shot he made and every par he racked up. He even made a couple of birdies.

By the ninth hole I was a complete wreck. My ego was being tested and I began hoping that the little guy would freaking mess up so that I could beat him on a hole. But it never happened. In fact, I got worse. This was my Master’s and I was trying so hard to beat the little guy. He continued to walk down the fairway, Mr. Happy Go Lucky (did I already mention how freaking cute he was as a kid?) just hitting shot after shot with no worries or cares in the world. Me, on the other hand, was tense sweating profusely and developed a tremendous headache.  No matter what I did I couldn’t hit that damn ball.

We were on the seventeenth hole and along the right side of the fairway were houses. I figured I would give one more try, so I hit the heck out of the ball and it went clear into a house on the right side.  It was at that point that my life would change.  My nephew looked up to me and said very calmly and sincere, “YOU STINK AT GOLF UNCLE DARYL.” I stood their blank. I felt like about as big as an ant at that point.  I replied by saying, “YOU ARE ABSOLUTELY CORRECT, I DO.”  Then I followed up with asking a question.  “So, what am I doing wrong.” He told me, “well Uncle Daryl you are swinging too fast and your thumb is too far over. Slow your swing down.” So here we were at the seventeenth hole and I was taking a lesson from my nephew who was only eight years old.  I was humbled. He ended up shooting a 78 (7 over par), I shot a 87 (sucky over par).  My sister was right he is a phenom. 

Where are they now?

I continued to play golf and eventually focused only on one part of my game– Driving. I got to a point where I could consistently hit the ball over 340 yards.  I would end up competing in Long Drive contests around the New England area. I won a few matches and even made it to the regional finals– the qualifier for the Nationals in Mesquitte. But soon kids and a business would end all that.  So, now I play once or twice a year for fun.

My nephew on the other hand went on to become a NCAA golf star at Tennessee Tech. After college he played on the Hooters Tour, and Nationwide Tour.  He qualified for the PGA Tour in 2011. And has been playing well on the PGA Tour.  His Name is Scott Stallings and he just won the Greenbrier Classic this past weekend.

Congratulations! Scotty Robby

Daryl Conant, M.Ed

Tags: scott Stallings