Schuckman: Young golfers’ joy of making putts is something we should all embrace

LPGC 75

Luka Kroeger, a 4-year-old Quincy golfer, shows his joy after finishing his final hole Tuesday on the first day of the Pepsi Little People's Golf Championships. | Matt Schuckman photo

QUINCY — At its most fundamental level, the goal of golf is the same for a 5-year-old, a 75-year-old and everyone in between.

Put the ball in the hole.

The reaction to accomplishing that can be decidedly different however.

Sometimes, it’s a fist pump and a Hallelujah. Other times, it’s an exasperated sigh or a head scratcher. Getting there can cause some golfers to curse, throw their clubs, show their rage and act like a fool. If you play the game long enough, you’ve done one or all of those. Some even have managed to do all four on the same hole.

In the end, as long as the ball rattles around in the cup, you’ve met the goal.

That’s easy to forget until you spend a morning with the littlest of the Little People.

Their enthusiasm for the game is infectious. Their delight in completing a hole is contagious. Their total disregard for the score is encouraging. What matters to them is what should matter to most anyone who plays the game — putting the ball in the hole.

Obviously, their participation in the 51st Pepsi Little People’s Golf Championships requires scores to be kept, and it’s the caddie’s responsibility to do so, which is easy enough since either mom or dad is on the bag for the golfers in the 3-5 age division.

For the golfers, though, the score is inconsequential.

Making the final putt is what matters.

Why else would Leo Kuban throw his arms up and fly off the green like a bird or an airplane after rolling in a long putt. His joy in seeing the putt fall drew applause from what was actually a sizable gallery, and the smile stretching across his face was pure delight.

The same can be said for the reaction of Dash Sand after sinking his putt on the final hole. He ran over to his dad to give him a huge high-five and then gave a thumbs up as he walked off the green.

Now imagine if that was the kind of joy we felt every time we accomplished our goals.

As I darted around Westview Golf Course through the morning Tuesday, watching older kids grind over putts and stare down iron shots, I continually found myself asking the same question over and over.

Do they still find joy in making a putt?

When it leads to a birdie or a bump up the leaderboard, there has to be some sense of satisfaction. When a bogey comes from a tap-in, not as much. For every age group climbing to the 16- and 17-year-old boys and girls, the intensity ratchets up, too.

There is a higher priority placed on shot making, course management and scoring. Dropping the ball into the cup is a necessity to get to the next hole, not as much of an accomplishment as it might seem. It’s easy to forget that when you’re playing for titles, scholarships and opportunities.

But in those moments when you grit your teeth, grind the grips and try to force the ball to go where you think it should, let the game be fun. Let it make you smile. Let it be the game you loved from the first time you stepped to the tee or rolled a ball across a green.

Let putting the ball in the hole be what makes you happy.

You’ll feel like a kid again, and isn’t that one of the best feelings in the world.

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