Sunday, May 3, 2009

Junior Junior Golf

This time, it was eight-year-old Ben and ten-year old Julia’s chance to perform. The Belgian golf federation has a wonderful series of tournaments for preteens called the Scapa Tour. The kids play nine shortened holes, and the atmosphere is more of pleasure than competition.

This is Ben and Julia’s second year playing the Scapa. Neither is as avid a golfer as their older brother. They don’t like to practice and prefer other sports or activities. Julia, in particular, was scared about playing in a golf tournament. But they can hit the ball and surprisingly adored the Scapa events. They played in one tournament near Antwerp – and then on the seaside at a fabulous links course just outside of Ostend.

This year’s first event is near Waterloo at a hilly layout called Empereur set in verdant farmland. Like in any high-level golf tournament, starters announce the players. On the first hole, a 100-yard par three, Ben stepped up and whacked a five iron right near the hole. For a split second, it seemed to be going in. “Almost champagne, Benjamin,” said a stunned starter from the Belgian federation. Ben proceeded to three putt. Throughout the rest of his round, he showed the same tendency to hit a magnificent shot, followed by several imprecise strokes. He finished with four points (one point for a bogey, two for a par, three for a birdie), far down in the competition for eight year olds.

Julia shares the same erratic tendencies as her brother. She can hit a bal nicely, but struggles close to the greens. After a slow start, she surprises herself on the ninth hole by sinking a long putt (it lingered on the lip before falling in) and responded with a Tiger-style fist-pumping celebration. Like her younger brother, she also finished with four points and well down the standings.

But her smile coming off the ninth green was champion-sized. “I had a great time,” she beamed. “Me too,” added brother Ben.

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