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The Competitive Kid
By Anne Marie Goslak

What To Do When Your Child Wants To Be The Next Tiger

I used to smile at parents when they would have me watch their little six year old hit a golf ball.  With a gleam in their eye, they would say, “Do you think he’s a natural?”  Now they ask, “Could he be the next Tiger Woods?”  Now, more than ever, parents are starting their children in sports at a very young age. It has almost become an obsession.  Even my sister was told, “If you wait until your daughter is six to get her into dance classes, she will be SO far behind the other little girls, she will NEVER catch up.” With stories of Earl Woods starting his son out with clubs even before he could walk, golf is becoming no exception. 

So what do you do if your child likes the game?  How young is too young for lessons?  When should they play in a tournament?  If they hope of getting a scholarship, what do they need to do? Each professional is different, but in my opinion, I recommend a 30 minute lesson for children starting at age 6-8. Younger children can hit balls, chip and putt on the course, and just enjoy the game.  There are drills I can show the parents that will help the child develop a good swing without over instructing.  Junior clinics are a great and affordable option as well. 

North Carolina is lucky to have so many junior tours to choose from. I suggest waiting until the child is 7 or 8 years old before entering him/her in a tournament.   Let the child determine how many more tournaments they will enter.  Competition too soon will crush the child’s urge to play unless they really like the feeling of being under the gun.  Whether they win, or lose, shoot 100 or 68 celebrate the effort the same way.  Often times, parents want so badly for the child to play well.  If the child fails to do as well as the parent expected, the look on the parent’s face says to the child, “I am disappointed IN YOU.”  Let your child know that you love them the same no matter what they shoot.

If your child takes a serious interest in the game and wants to play on the college or professional level, save your money and hold on to your hat because you are up for some exciting times.  To get a college scholarship, your child needs to have good grades.  Coaches look for good study habits as a way to see if the player has discipline and time management skills. Coaches are looking for tournament experience. Be prepared to enter your child in local tournaments, state tournaments, and national events as well.  Coaches are looking for good swing fundamentals.  Private lessons are essential in order for your child to really refine their swing.  Talk to your pro about coming up with a package deal if you commit to so many lessons per month for the season. Most importantly, coaches are looking for kids with good attitudes.  One hundred percent of the coaches I talked to listed attitude as the number one trait they are looking for in a player.

To get a coach’s attention, a player really needs to market themselves.  When your young golfer has entered the 9th or 10th  grade, they can write to colleges.  Send a basic letter that says, “Dear Coach, My name is_______. I am a sophmore at _________ school.  I currently hold a __ handicap.  I am interested in your golf program and school because_________.  Enclosed is my golf resume.  Please send me information about your program.”

You can help your child by getting the names of schools that offer scholarships in various college guides.

Not every school will write back, but for those that do, have y our child send a thank you note and start a file on that school.  Send the coach the golfer’s competitive schedule for the summer. Sending a video of his or her swing is acceptable too. When the golfer is a junior, the coach can officially contact them.  The coach will perhaps visit your child at a tournament to see them action.  When they are a senior, they can go on 5 paid recruiting trips.  You and your child can look at other schools as well.  Finally, if they are selected, they will get a letter of intent, and sign for a scholarship. Be advised that most coaches have made their decision on scholarships early in the 11th grade year.

If a player wants to be a professional, you as the parent will need no less than $40,000 saved so that your son or daughter can play on the mini tour and go to the qualifying competition per year.  If you don’t have the money, you will need to find sponsorship.  Many professionals have a coach, a caddy, a sports psychologist, a fitness trainer.  Yes, it is overwhelming, but it is the reality.  If you don’t have the money, all the talent in the world doesn’t matter.

The road to becoming Tiger Woods is a long one.  It has many ups and downs.  When you look at your child golfer swinging, don’t ask yourself, “Does he have what it takes to be a world class player?”  Ask yourself, “Am I up for the ride?”

Anne Marie Goslak won her first state championship at the age of 10, nationals at the age of 15.  She was awarded a golf scholarship to Wake Forest University.  She is currently a teaching pro at Oak Valley Golf Club.