SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. – Kody Conover of Roosevelt, Utah, is like most typical 19-year-old male golfers. He's super competitive, loves to talk a little smack on the course, doesn't mind a pretty cart girl and dreams about the future.
What's different about him may surprise you. Unlike many golfers, especially his age, Kody lives in the present, which is a valuable trait in golf. This year, he's already won five times on the Golf Channel Am Tour and has recorded several rounds in the 70s. So you could give him a pass if he wasn't in the best of moods after Tuesday's 102 on the Talon Course at Grayhawk Golf Club.
But he wasn't the least bit upset. He was just looking forward to his next round when he was sure he was going to bounce back. He doesn't replay bad rounds or bad shots.
"Does he seem upset?" asked his father, Clifford, observing his son laughing with other competitors around the bag drop area at Grayhawk after his round. "He's got a great attitude."
Kody Conover has five wins on the Golf Channel Am Tour in 2014.
That attitude, by the way, is infectious. Nick Easen of Keller, Texas, played with Kody on Tuesday.
"I had a bad day yesterday (shooting 96), but today was incredible" said Easen, who was playing in the Sarazen flight (12-15 handicap) alongside Kody. "I don't care what happens after this. I'm having a great tournament."
Ken Hodges, of Oahu, Hawaii, played with Kody on Monday and echoed Easen's sentiments. And as Kody made his way around the clubhouse on Tuesday, he was constantly stopped by fellow competitors who had played with or simply met him to ask him about his round.
"I've never enjoyed myself more during a round of golf," Hodges said. "He's so positive."
In fact, nobody who's around Kody doesn't feel better after spending some time with him because they wonder how he can accomplish so much and be so positive, considering the obstacles he has to overcome.
Kody has Down Syndrome, which to many might seem like a tough blow, but the Conover Family has done more than make the best of it. They've thrived.
When Kody was 4 years old, he got his first set of golf clubs. Shortly after, he was playing with dad, a pretty fair golfer himself. (Clifford went on to win three national titles (2009-2011) in the Palmer flight (handicap 4-7) and plans to play next week here in Scottsdale if he can get over a sciatica problem he's experiencing right now.)
Kody Conover with PGA Tour player Charlie Beljan and the legendary Peter Jacobsen after Monday's welcome dinner.
There are YouTube videos of Kody's achievements: playing snow golf six years ago, another of him talking about first tee confidence a couple of years later, and one of him sinking a 3-point shot in basketball at the buzzer during junior high. There's even one where he delivers a speech upon his graduation at Roosevelt Union High School.
And yes, he not only graduated, but plans to go to college and perhaps become a golf pro someday. In the meantime, though, his parents have set up a laundromat business that bears his name. In the morning, he works there as the maintenance man, and when he gets off, he plays golf, most of the time with his father. And when they're not playing together, the elder Conover caddies for his son in tournaments because Kody needs someone to be his eyes on the course to follow the ball.
But back to golf on the Am Tour. Kody's 102 on Tuesday notwithstanding, his round did have its moments. On the par-3 eighth, which is offering a $10,000 hole-in-one prize split 50/50 with Feherty's Troops First Foundation, he hit the stick from 185 yards using a 5-wood. When asked what he would have done with the money, Kody surmised that it might help him land a girlfriend.
And if you're thinking Kody, whose favorite golfer is Rory McIlroy, plays a game that's different than the average golfer's, you're right. He hits it about 270-280 yards off the tee, has a pretty good short game and an exceptional outlook.
Do you know what a "Bayou Ball" is? Easen found out on Tuesday on the par 5s. It's one of Kody's drives that goes past yours, hence the term "by you."
And his approach to the game?
"S-D-F," Kody calls it. "Slow down and focus."
With pride, he'll tell you about his best friend at home, Jace Woostenhulme, who played on the same high school golf team. Or the medal that another high school golfer gave him after that golfer won regionals last year. At that same tournament, played on a miserable, wet day, Kody finished in the top third of the field. He wore the medal to school the next day.
"I don't always care for the parents," Clifford said. "But the kids have been great."
Oh, and Kody's done something else many have never done. He has a hole-in-one. A couple years ago, his 7-iron just left of the hole on a par-3 on his home course in Roosevelt, spun to the right and into the cup.
His five wins on the Golf Channel Am Tour, by the way, are consecutive, leading up to this national championship. He's been so good that he's moved up two flights this year. The run included an 84 he shot earlier in the year at Rio Secco Golf Club in Las Vegas. That same day, also at Rio Secco, his father won his flight.
"It can't get any better than that," Clifford said – and Kody agreed.