MEET the small boy with the very big swing who’s about to tee off with the best in the world.
Young Zak Collins, age six, can drive a golf ball 150 yards — about 140 metres — but is too young to get an official golf handicap.
Now he’s packing his tailor-made Young Guns golf clubs and size-one golf shoes to represent Ireland at a major tournament for gifted young players at the famous Pinehurst course — the home of American golf.
The golf prodigy from Ballincollig in Co Cork, who is due to go in to senior infants at Gaelscoil Uí Riordáin in September, will compete in the US Kids Golf World Championship on August 5-7.
It is the largest and most prestigious golf event in the world for players aged 12 and under, attracting over 1,200 participants from 30 countries around the world.
They will compete on one of the top courses at the Pinehurst Resort in North Carolina, which hosted the 1999 and 2005 US Open Championships.
With proud dad, Denis, caddying, Zak will have to drive his ball through Pinehurst’s iconic tall southern pines to find the perfect spot on the immaculate Donald Ross greens.
He’s been playing golf since he could walk; secured his place in the tournament by winning the Irish Wee Wonders Golf Competition in Cavan last year, before going on to come 10th overall in the European finals at St Andrew’s — finishing top in his age group.
He took time out from his summer holidays yesterday to practice at the Lee Valley Golf and Country Club, where he is an honorary member.
The club’s PGA pro, David O’Sullivan, said Zak has “a special talent” and plays the game with remarkable “poise and confidence”.
“He’s a great young kid. It is just so refreshing to see a six-year-old kid stand up and play like that — with a beautiful swing, rhythm and timing, whether it’s a drive, little chip shots and putts,” Mr O’Sullivan said.
Denis said Zak loves everything about the game.
“He loves watching golf, playing golf, and talking about golf. His idol is Pádraig Harrington,” he said.
Zak got a set of plastic golf clubs aged two, his first real set aged two-and-a-half, and is now on his third set of real clubs.
Denis coaches his son but said he is not a “pushy parent”. “I gave up playing against him when he beat me by six shots at the Lee Valley one day,” he said.
Zak said he wants to be a professional when he grows up — playing soccer for Manchester United at weekends, and golf the rest of the time.
And his “usual” at the Lee Valley’s 19th — a Britvic and two bread rolls.
Denis and Zak are due to travel to North Carolina in early August. Lee Valley is hosting a fundraising three-ball and barbecue next week for the family in the hope that his mother, Stephanie, can also travel. The tournament takes place on July 21, between 3-5pm, priced €50 a player.
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