Pint-sized golfer with tall dreams


LA QUINTA, Calif. – At the Golf Channel Amateur Tour National Championships at PGA West, players come in all forms. Male-female, high-low handicap, young-old, northern-southern, you name it. But one finalist stands out. His name is Charlie Reiter, and at 10 years of age he’s this week’s youngest competitor. But don’t let his adolescence fool you. Charlie belongs among the golfing elite.

A lifetime resident of Palm Desert, Calif., when Charlie was brought home from the hospital, his father Mike placed a plastic set of golf clubs next to his crib. Charlie and golf have been inextricably linked ever since.

“I’m 10 years old and I’ve been playing golf for 10 years,” Charlie said in a manner you'd expect to hear from a middle-aged man reflecting on his game. “My first memory of golf is when I was 2. I won my first tournament when I was 5.”
Charlie Reiter GC Amateur Tour
Charlie Reiter, who's still in grade school, appears as old school as they get from his swing right down to his clothes.

Over the course of his short life, Charlie has amassed a golfing résumé that most people twice his age would envy. Junior golf tournament wins, adult tournament titles and, even more impressive, tons of competitive rounds of golf under his belt. It’s not surprising, then, that Charlie looks so comfortable playing in this week’s championship.

On the practice range at PGA West, he turns heads, but not because he’s 4-foot-nothing, or even because he’s wearing traditional knickers and a tam o'shanter hat. Charlie causes double-takes because of his silky-smooth, Sam Snead-like golf swing. While his fellow competitors struggle to get their bodies and minds in sync, Charlie confidently stands there, effortlessly hitting balls, focused and in his own little world.

“When I’m at the range I think about being on the PGA Tour,” Charlie said. “I want to buy a Corvette.”

As his inspiration to accomplish that goal, Charlie emulates none other than Payne Stewart, the man who shared Charlie’s flair for fashion and won the U.S. Open at Pinehurst just one month before Charlie was born.

Charlie’s quest for superstardom doesn’t come without sacrifice, however. His father serves not only as his official chauffeur but also his caddie. Last June and July, Team Reiter logged 7,000 miles in the family vehicle getting Charlie to tournaments in San Francisco, San Diego and everywhere in between. Mike estimates he invested $25,000 in Charlie’s exploits last year alone.

Despite the large investment, Mike takes it all in stride.

“Sure, I enjoy seeing Charlie do well,” he said, “but I just like seeing how much fun he has with it. I told him the courses here are long and difficult and that he didn't have to play this week. The only reason we're here is because he wanted so badly to come out and play.”

And play he did. The first of four rounds at the Golf Channel Amateur Tour finals was Tuesday at PGA West’s intimidating Stadium Course, which serves as the biennial home of PGA Tour Q-School. With deep bunkers, sneaky water hazards and a diabolical par-3 with an island green known simply as Alcatraz, this Pete Dye design also happens to be one of the most difficult courses in America.

Charlie plodded his way around the tricky 6,200-yard layout in 88 strokes (making par at Alcatraz), good for sixth place in his flight of 16-20-handicappers. He beat both of his adult playing partners.

“Some of those par-4s out there we can’t reach in two,” Mike said. “I just try to help Charlie play to his strengths and hit it to the right place where he can knock the next shot close. That’s the goal.”

So far, Charlie’s tactful approach to golf and life has him headed in the right direction. When asked where he sees himself 15 years from now, Charlie didn't hesitate, “I want to be on the PGA Tour.”

But what if that doesn’t work out? What if he doesn't make it? Charlie and his dad looked at each other for the answer, before responding in unison.

“We don’t really think about that.”

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