By Robert Bicknell

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August 12, 2007

Six years old and already gets it…

I just read a story which cracked me up simply due to the way this player handled the competition in general and his comments about some of the other players.

He noted that some of the other players would cry after making a bogey, he claimed "they were not focussed," which is a very astute comment, but what made it amusing is that it came from a six-year-old.

Yes, you read that right.

Sapo King just won the prestigious Calloway Golf Junior World Championships, beating some of the best six year olds from around the globe and featured 55 golfers from 17 different countries. Despite starting the round with three straight bogeys, he kept his composure by repeating one of his inspirational phrases, "Champions fix it."

Aw, ya gotta love this kid.

His uncle and caddie, Fernando Diaz, says they printed out a picture of last year’s winner and put it on his bag and before practice every day, Sapo would say "That's my trophy."

My, oh my…a six-year old who uses psychology. Will wonders never cease?

While this appears to be yet another "feel good, warm and fuzzy" type of story, the question of beginning competition golf at such an early age is a good thing for the child has to be asked.

Personally, I’d say "yes’, provided that its something the child likes to do and not because the parents want him to do it. The lessons that golf can teach a child help to provide a solid foundation on which the child can grow into a well adjusted adult, but such lessons are wasted if the child resents the method of teaching.

Anyone with a child of their own knows what its like trying to get them to do something they don’t want to do. They develop their own wills rather quickly and are quite vocal about expressing their views, but the problem is that some children will not say anything and just do what they are told because they want to please their parents. This can be dangerous as well.

If your child is laughing and having a great time, its safe to assume that they like it and that’s a good thing because the child would learn about the value of playing within the rules, taking personal responsibility for his actions, elementary strategy, maintaining control over his emotions, etc., while having a great time. These are all valuable skills which when developed at a young age help a person grow and mature.

What would concern me is introducing organised competition at such an early age because there’s a big difference between a school yard pick-up ball game where both winners and losers have a great time and something more serious such as an organised event.

If this was Little league baseball or something, its different because it’s a team atmosphere and you can always blame someone else for the loss, but golf is such a singular event, there’s no place to hide and that could be utterly devastating to a child’s development, especially if the adults care more about winning than the child does.

Even adults walk off the green or golf course talking to themselves from time to time. Ok. Most times. Hell, I talk to myself all the time because I am utterly amazed by the amount of stupid things I can do out there, but I can take it whereas a child’s fragile ego could be crushed.

So, its truly a double edged sword.

I would prefer to see kids competing but in a more friendly atmosphere where the onus is not solely on winning. Sure, winning is fun, but its not everything.

When Sapo King described the other kids crying after making a bogey, that should be a warning signal that something just isn’t right. Ok, depressed, yes. Determined to make the stroke back on the next hole or two, yes.

But crying?

As Sapo said, the other kids lost their focus…but to me it seems that their parents lost the plot and in their rush to have the next Tiger Woods, they forgot the entire reason for their kids to be there in the first place…

To have fun.

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