Last weekend, Robbie Kia had to look within and ask himself how much we really wanted to continue playing the sport he loves.
Competing in the B-Flight division on the 2018 Mid-Pacific Open, Kia, 13, struggled through the first two days of competition, barely making the cut after the second round. Disheartened by his performance, Kia had a decision to make: Give up, or move forward.
“After the first two days, I thought that I didn’t really want to play,” Kia said. “But on the third day I was out there in the morning practicing before the round, just hitting golf balls.”
And just like that, the youngest golfer in the tournament shot up the leaderboards from 22nd to T-6th by the end of Day 3, leading his group on the day at -2. After Day 4, Kia finished in second place.
His secret? Kia found joy in his game.
“At first, I was kind of scared,” he said. “I was excited, but I was scared at the same time because I was playing in a PGA sanctioned tournament. The first two days, they didn’t go great. I had some jitters and all those things came into my mind, I was thinking bogeys instead of pars.”
Once Kia was able to gather his thoughts, his mindset changed. Instead of trying to keep up with the pack of players -- some of who were three-five times his age -- he just played his own brand of golf and pretended like it was any other tournament he’s played in before.
“It was a good experience. It was my first time playing on a really difficult course, learning how to better myself each and every way,” he said. “Knowing that you did kind of badly the first couple days and then recover and overcome adversity, it felt good.”
A 13-year-old at Highlands Intermediate School, Kia had to pass the eye test with the players he was grouped with throughout the competition to gain their respect.
After all, it’s not everyday you see a 13-year-old with a more polished swing than a 50-year-old man.
“On Day 4, I was playing with the oldest guy playing. It was kind of awkward,” Kia said with a laugh. “They were saying stuff like, ‘Oh back in the day I wish I had your kind of swing’ and stuff like that. They kept saying how wished they would have hit it 300 yards when they were younger.”
A member of the Junior Golf Association of Hawaii, Kia plays in tournaments almost every month and has won the last two events he participated in before the Mid-Pac Open. But now that he has a taste for higher competition, Kia knows that this is just the beginning of his journey on the green. And maybe this time next year, he’ll be boasting about a first place finish.
“It’s something to strive for next time,” Kia said confidently.
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