Motomochi Wins US Kids Title


Jonnie Motomochi won the boys 12-and-older title for the third consecutive time as more than 650 junior golfers from around the world descended upon Williamsburg, Va., for the fourth annual U.S. Kids Golf World Championship.
The Golden Horseshoe Golf Club once again served as host to an event which featured 12 tournaments for 12 age groups - boys 6 and under through 12, and girls 8 and under through 12. And for the first time the tournament was expanded from a two- to three-round format in the July 31-Aug. 2 event.
Motomochi followed a splendid opening round of 65 with a second -round 70 to take a three-stroke lead into the final round.
There were many who had eagerly anticipated another final round duel between Motomochi and, his good friend and rival, Richard Lee. The two battled down the stretch at last years event but, unfortunately, Lee was forced to withdraw just prior to his scheduled opening-round tee time due to illness.
In the final round, Virginias own Jay Vandeventer closed the gap to two strokes with a two-putt eagle on the second hole. However, Motomochi answered with a birdie-birdie-eagle run midway through the front nine to put the tournament out of reach.
Although the final round had to be cancelled on the back nine due to inclement weather, the outcome was all but a foregone conclusion. The final standings reverted back to the second round with Motomochi declared the winner, followed by Vandeventer, Andrew Yun and Tommy Mou from Taiwan.
In the 11-year-old boys division, Texas lefty Corey Whittset took a commanding five-shot lead into the final round on the strength of back to back 68s in his first two rounds. His closest pursuer, Jonathan Bell from England, was a most familiar face to Whitsett. Both he and Bell treated fans to a dramatic 10-hole playoff in last years event - a playoff eventually won by Whitsett.
Bell, however, was never able to mount the kind of charge needed this year to force another overtime spectacle. Once again Whitsett carried home the prize, followed by Bell, Payne Denman from Tennessee and Bradley Shigizawa from Hawaii.
Other boys champions included the Philippines Allenby Ramos in the age 6-and-under division, Ben Doyle in the boys 7, Landon Hearnes at boys 8, Daniel Chian boys 9 and Panuphol Pillayarat from Thailand in the boys 10.
In the 12-year-old girls division, Kristina Wong from New York sank a 15-foot birdie on the first sudden death extra hole to secure victory over Diana Robogo from Mexico. Wong, a first-timer in the event, followed a strong opening round 69 with a shaky second-round 78 before prevailing on the final day.
Tiffany Lua from California and two Canadians, Jessica Wallace and Brittany Henderson, rounded out the top five. Haaheo Manini-Hewlin, the defending champion, finished sixth.
In the 11-year-old girls division, Mexicos Paloma Martinez was able to out-steady her opponents to capture her fourth consecutive title. Martinez followed two 73s with a strong final round 1-under-par 71 to win by two over Georgias Carrie Metz. Metz, who opened with 69, was unable to overcome a second-round 78.
Lisa McCloskey from Texas, Maria Imeda Piccio from the Philippines and Sara Jones, another Texan, finished third, fourth and fifth, respectively.
In other girls tournament action, Floridas Alexis Thompson took home the crown in the girls 8-and-under division. The Philippines Dottie Ardina defended her title in the girls 9, as did Indias Tanya Wadhwa in the girls 10. Also Mexico South took home the girls team title. California-South was the winner of the boys team title.
Once again, the U.S. Kids Golf World Championship was a tremendous success, providing a wonderful platform of competition among a diversified field from around the world. Regardless of skill level, families were able to be together, meet new friends, and share the game of golf, a major goal of the U.S. Kids organizers.
And for those competing at the highest level, it was a great opportunity to test their mettle and take their games to new heights. For some, their playing ability is already quite unbelievable. It will be fun to watch them develop in the years to come.