Jul 20, 2007 Kimberly Michalak Uncategorized
When John Michael Sullivan, 8, from Camillus was just 5 years old, his grandparents bought him a set of junior golf clubs. For John Michael sports were always important, but after receiving this fateful set of golf clubs in 2004, golf was elevated to its own plateau.
John Michael and his father, John, spend a lot of time on the golf course together, and John Michael’s grandparents enjoy playing with him, as well.
Until recently, John Michael has never really played against kids his own age.
“He takes both group and private lessons, and his instructors told me that he has a lot of potential if he sticks with the game,” John said. “He beats me 50 percent of the time.”
John Michael recently got the chance to compete among his peers for the first time at the Mutual of Omaha Drive, Chip & Putt Challenge presented by the Golf Channel. On June 17 he competed against 16 other 7- to 8-year-olds at the Links at Erie Village in the regional semi finals.
There are four age groups of competitors: 7 to 8, 9 to 10, 11 to 12 and 13 to 14. Each child competes in the driving, chipping and putting portions of the competition. The person with the lowest ranking score at the end of the competition takes first place and so on. For example: At the end of the putting competition John Michael sank his shots in the least amount of putts, so he receives a score of one for that round.
Each participant gets two shots to drive the ball as far as they can, but it must land within a designated 40-yard boundary.
Everyone is given three shots to chip their ball as close to the cup as possible. One point is earned for simply hitting the ball and 10 points are earned for getting the ball into the cup in one shot. There are four circles around the cup which represent five, four, three and two points.
Each person takes a shot at a five-foot putt and a fifteen-yard putt. After the first shot at the 15-yard putt, the distance from the hole is measured for tiebreaker purposes.
John Michael placed in the top three at the end of the competition at the Links, which qualified him to go to the regional finals in Erie, Pa. There John Michael competed against eight other children in the 7 to 8 age group.
The competition was a harder, the circles were smaller to score points for the chipping portion for example, and only the top place finishers would move on to the national finals in Orlando.
After a day of tough competition and excitement a banquet was held to announce the winners. Again, John Michael came out on top.
“He was beaming and glowing with excitement,” John said. “He got a large wooden plaque saying he was the regional final champion and he qualified to move on to the finals.”
John Michael and numerous family members are going to travel with him to Orlando from Sept. 13 to 16 to support him and his fantastic achievement.
“The Golf Channel really treats the kids like kings and queens without overdoing it,” John said. “They paid for his flight and two nights in the hotel room. The room is even in his name.”
But for John Michael, it is all about the chance to win that big shiny trophy.
For now, he is just enjoying his summer vacation and practicing golf, which, according to his father, he does all on his own.
“He just has a real passion for the game. We don’t ever tell him to practice, he just wants to,” John said. “In fact, I tell him all the time that if he wants to put away his clubs and never play again it’s okay. We are just so proud of what he has accomplished.”
John Michael’s father is extremely proud of his son’s recent accomplishments, but pointed out that the time they have been able to spend together on the golf course is just as valuable.
John doesn’t push golf on his son, although he wouldn’t mind being his caddy, manager and agent someday. But for now, he will just set aside some room in the house for all of John Michael’s trophies.
“He just can’t lose, no matter what happens in Orlando. His whole family and all of Camillus will be cheering for him,” John said. “He is already a winner and we just plan on having a great time in Orlando.”