HUDSON — At the conclusion of the PGA Tour season, the FedEx Cup is awarded to the player who earned the most points from the events they play.
U.S. Kids follows a similar format for young golfers. For each tournament, the first-place finisher earns 30 points, second place earns 20 points and third gets 15 points, and in August, the Championship Cup is awarded to the golfer who with the most points.
In 2013, Jaida Furlow was the Championship Cup winner in the Tampa region for 8- and 9-year-olds thanks to her 195 points aided by four first-place finishes. This year, Furlow can compete both statewide and regionally throughout the Southwest.
Growing up in Land O’ Lakes with six older brothers, Furlow participated in several sports, but at age of four she was introduced to golf at a county fair where she met AAU instructor and former LPGA professional Jan Johnson. The two began a relationship that continues to today. Beginning at The Groves Golf and Country Club and later at the Lexington Oaks Golf Club, Johnson met with her young student on evenings and weekends to develop her skills.
Last year, after four years of lessons, Furlow was ready for competition. In her first nine-hole tournament, the nine-year-old surprised everyone by finishing third.
“It was scary when I stepped up to the first tee and they announced my name,” Furlow said. “It was good to know my parents were there to cheer for me. After seeing me play so well, they encouraged me to enter into more tournaments.”
In addition to receiving formal instruction, Furlow gets tips about shot selection and course management from her father, an accomplished golfer she affectionately refers to as “Caddy Daddy.”
Furlow says she has aspirations to one day play on the LPGA Tour, then pursue a career in medicine.
Last year, Furlow’s course highlights included two consecutive birdies and four consecutive pars, and at the awards ceremony, she met golf analyst Gary Koch of the Golf Channel.
According to Furlow, the keys to success in golf are to practice and ask for help, but with drives at nearly 150 yards and a uncanny short game, her play often catches the attention of nearby adults.
“We now live close to The Links Golf Club,” the Lake Myrtle Elementary School third-grader said. “Every other day, I hit a bucket of balls, practice chipping, then finish with long and short putts. My goal in putting is to get a long putt to within five feet of the hole. I can make most of my putts within five feet.”
Correspondent Cliff Gill can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org and follow him on Twitter@ReporterCliff.