Gift of Golf
How far can you hit a golf ball? If you’re anything like Keanu Samson is out on the green, you better grab your clubs!
Keanu might only be six, but he’s already showing promising signs of a bright future in the golfing domain. The Mango Hill-based youngster has been playing golf now for three years and has competed in the Australian Junior Age Division Golf Championship coming in fifth place and also played in the Australia Junior Masters in Newcastle this year and came fifth again. He also recently returned from playing a tournament in Rockhampton. Keanu is now playing in the under 14’s academy at Redcliffe and also playing rounds with adults at Redcliffe doing nine holes. The next big goal is for Keanu to play in the world titles in Pinehurst in the United States.
It seems sport has always been a big part of Keanu’s life. He’s no stranger to a tennis racquet and he’s always keen to shoot a few hoops. But his biggest strength at the moment is with a golf club in hand. It was while Keanu was playing tennis that his then-coach encouraged him to take up golf as another sporting option. It didn’t take long before Keanu and his biggest supporter (dad Mike) were trying out his skills at a nearby driving range and the rest is history.
“The thing with Keanu is you explain something, he gives it a try and he’ll just keep on going,” Mike says of the first time Keanu tried golf. “He really is a sponge when it comes to any sport and he’s always been like that. So once we started doing golf, he just loved hitting the golf balls. He would stay at the driving range at Deception Bay for hours and it was time for them to close, he would get upset and wouldn’t want to leave.
“I had to promise him we’d go back first thing the next morning. The next day he woke me up at 5.30am and I’m a big believer that if that’s what they want, don’t find an excuse to get out of it. So I got out of bed and off we went.”
“I love golf because I get to hit really well and I can show others what I’m made of.”
For Mike and Keanu, diving into the world of golf was a great opportunity for them to spend quality time together and have some fun. Then Keanu showed potential in the sport and they decided to try out a golf course.
“We made our way to Pine Rivers Golf Club and started playing,” Mike says. “Then they had a clinic for kids and Keanu had just turned four at the time. The guy running the clinic looked at Keanu’s swing, asked how old he was and said he would be put in a group with the kids that were a couple of years older than him.
“He just got better and better with his skills and they recommended we take Keanu to a guy in Brisbane who was great with kids. Once he saw what Keanu could do, he couldn’t believe he was only four and could hit the ball the distance that he did.”
Keanu was just five years old when he started playing in tournaments and came away with second and third placings. He was then invited to take part in the Australian Junior Age Division Golf Championship on the Gold Coast where he placed fifth overall and then fifth again in the Australia Junior Masters.
“It’s been a big six months where everything has just blown up,” Mike says. “He’s also playing in the under 14’s and he’s only just turned six. He’s even keeping up with the adults now and he can drive the ball about 140 metres. He’s getting stronger and better with his game.”
While golf is not everyone’s cup of tea, there’s no denying Keanu loves golf and without a doubt, it’s his favourite sport. He even knows how awesome it is that he can drive a ball 140 metres.
“I love golf because I get to hit really well and I can show others what I’m made of,” Keanu says. “My favourite thing about golf is I get to see and spend time with my friends and I get to hit as many golf balls as I want, plus I get to hit birdies and eagles.”
Believe it or not, Keanu already has a pro golfer that he looks up to and holds in high regard. His name is TJ King and Keanu was lucky enough to connect with him on more than one occasion.
“TJ King is my favourite golfer and I like him because he gave me a ball during a tournament,” Keanu says. “It made me so happy and I keep it in a special place with my trophies. I don’t want to lose that ball!”
“That ball is definitely a special one,” Mike adds. “When we took him to that tournament, he was loving it and watching golf balls fly and everything else going on. He really wanted a ball from one of the players and he couldn’t get one. There was only one who came up to give him a ball and the smile on Keanu’s face was huge.
“Fast forward to about eight months later and Keanu was part of a clinic at Redcliffe and everyone was watching what he could do and then one of the PGA guys comes over and it turns out to be TJ King, the very same one who gave him the ball. Once I told Keanu who it was he ran over and hugged his leg and told him he still had that ball.
“The next day they played the Pro-Am. It was a big tournament. I picked Keanu up early from school and said we’d go watch TJ. Once the tournament was over they did a nearest-the-pin competition and Keanu got called up to do it. TJ was there and he walked with him and encouraged him to show what he could do. He didn’t get nearest the pin, but the experience of being with his favourite golfer just fuelled his fire even further.”
A recent trip to Rockhampton to compete in the Junior Australian Open under 6’s didn’t quite go as planned for the young golfer, who contracted a virus and ended up in hospital, missing the final day of play. It also derailed plans to compete in the New Zealand Open with Keanu knocked down with an ear infection and unable to fly.
Before his scheduled trip to compete in New Zealand in October, Keanu was definitely keen to head across the ditch, but there was more to it than just checking out the green.
“I'm very, very excited,” Keanu said ahead of the tournament. “I was born there and now I get to go back to see how beautiful it is, but also play golf while I’m there too.”
Despite missing out on a trip to New Zealand, Keanu has now bounced back and is working on building his strength and skills out on the course at Redcliffe.
“After a big setback for Keanu recently, he’s been busy with tournaments at Redcliffe,” Mike says. “In mid-October, Keanu achieved first nett place in the Redcliffe club champs intermediate class and tied first for stroke as well, only to lose by a count back playing against kids aged up to 14 years old. It was awesome to see the smile back on his face. The next tournament is already in sight, which will be played in Melbourne in December. It’s called the Moonah Links Challenge, which is also run by US Kids Golf, where Keanu could qualify to play in the world title at Pinehurst next year.”
The future certainly looks bright for this young champ and who knows? We may just see him heading the line-up of pro golfers one day!