You didn’t hear about it on ESPN, or much of anywhere else, but a world championship in golf was decided this weekend. In the hallowed grounds of Pinehurst, North Carolina, U.S. Kids Golf held its annual World Championship for boys and girls ages 12 and under. In the Boys 6 and Under division, Trebor Melendez of Vineland won in a sudden death playoff, just three weeks after turning six.
When I called Pinehurst to congratulate him, the champ was taking a well-deserved nap. So I spoke to his father, Robert, who told us, with as much amazement as pride, that this was not Trebor’s first world title. In July, the week before turning six, Trebor competed in the 6 and Under category of the IMG Academy Junior World Golf Championships, in San Diego, and won by four strokes.
This weekend’s victory was a bit tougher.
After three rounds of nine holes over three days, Trebor was tied with Caiden Westbroek of Palm Harbor, Florida, at 7 strokes under par. (The course was playing at 1,311 yards, with holes ranging from 69 to 220 yards. That’s about one third the length that adult duffers like yours truly play in nine holes.)
The first playoff hole was a par four. Both boys landed their drives in the fairway and hit wedges onto the green, which is what you’re supposed to do. Unless you’re a pretty good golfer, it doesn’t happen that often. Both two-putted for par. The match remained tied.
The next hole was a par 3 of 69 yards. “Trebor hit pitching wedge,” said Robert, who caddied for his son. “His ball landed about 14 feet left of the hole. Caiden landed his shot 25 feet past the flag but still on the green. Their birdie putts came up short. Caiden was left with a four-footer. Trebor had two feet. Caiden missed his par putt, Trebor made his, and he won.”
Trebor (“Robert backwards,” explained Dad) is 46 inches tall and weighs 55 pounds. He has a gap between his top front teeth but evidently no gaps in his game. “He gets excited,” Robert says, “but he’s cool on the course.” Trebor’s victory at Pinehurst boosted him to No. 1 in the U.S. Kids Golf world rankings for boys 6 and under, Robert added.
The word “World” in the name of the two tournaments is legit. Counting all age groups and both genders, each tournament claimed more than 1,200 entrants from more than 50 countries. (This probably includes qualifying rounds and preliminary tourneys, but still.)
Robert, who works for the New Jersey State Department of Corrections, traveled to Pinehurst with his wife, Damaris, and their gifted son, who is their only child.
“I picked up golf after college,” Robert said, “and became avid. I never had a handicap but my lowest score was 66.” (Reader, that is mighty fine golf.) “I don’t play anymore. Now I dedicate all my time to my child. He has a beautiful gift.”
MONDAY MORNING UPDATE: Q/A WITH THE CHAMP
Hi Trebor. Congratulations on your win. What were your expectations coming into the tournament?
I was feeling amazing.
What does that mean?
That I would play great.
What is the best part of your game?
I think it is putting. My dad says chipping, too. That was the first thing he taught me, putting and chipping.
Do you think you can get better?
Everything feels good except my woods. I hit my 4 wood a little fat.
What do you enjoy most about golf?
It’s fun. I enjoy the round. I make new friends. I tried baseball once and I didn’t like it.
What’s the most fun thing about golf?
My short game. I like to spin the ball. Make it stop on the green and spin back.
That’s not easy.
I can do it very easily.
I’m 68, I’ve been playing for 20 years and I still can’t do that.
How did you stay calm in such a big tournament?
I was both nervous and calm. A little bit shaky in the third round.
What do you do when you hit a bad shot?
I go behind my ball, see what target do I want to go to, and start all over.
You don’t get upset.
I don’t get upset that much.
How will you celebrate your big win?
We’re going to get a waterslide and get a cake, with my family and friends.
What do you want to be when you grow up?
I want to be a professional golfer and win tournaments.
I think you have a good chance of making that dream come true.
Congratulations again, and have a wonderful party.
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