Mini-golfer

From the moment she was born, Masha and Eugene Itkin’s daughter Isabella loved golf. Despite only playing competitively on the Future Champion Junior Golf Tour for one year, she has thrived in the tournament circuit. She recently took first place in two tournaments and qualified for the Junior World Golf Tournament.

Oh, one thing, Isabella is 6.

In her age division, the La Jolla elementary School student took first place at the Future Champions Golf Kids Tour in San Marcos, May 16, and in Point Loma, June 13.

Isabella has participated in 12 tournaments with the Future Champions Golf program, and placed in the top three in 11 of them. In the 12th, she placed fourth.

Her scores and accolades qualify Isabella to compete in the San Diego-based Junior World Golf Tournament in July, which draws young golfers from 56 countries.

Her father and coach, eugene, said his daughter must have inherited his love of golf.

“When she was a baby in her rocker, I would practice my swing in front of her and she would hold her hands together to mimic me.

“When she started walking, she had this amazing ability to take a plastic ball and put it on a tee, she would take a plastic club and just touch the ball. As soon as it would fall off the tee, she would just start laughing hysterically,” he said. “What was amazing, was anytime golf would be on TV, she would stop whatever she was doing, and just watch, completely spellbound.”

Her mother fueled her daughter’s love of the sport by buying golf-themed gifts ... “a little plastic tee, a little shirt that said ‘daddy’s little caddy,’ ” Masha said. The older Isabella got, the more interested she became

because there was more she could do with the game. At age 3, she played on a golf course for the first time.

“I teed it up and she took it from there,” her father said. “I never realized how much knowledge it takes to properly maneuver your way around a golf course, but to work with her and see it through her eyes, it educated us, as well. It’s a beautiful thing. It takes people years to master some of the skills, but it’s natural for her because it’s been part of her life, her entire life.”

Her mother added that her favorite part of the experience is watching adult players on the course react in shock when they see the powerful swing generated by the tiny player.

Two years into her golf “career,” Isabella began competing. “We probably could have started her earlier than age 5, because she just loved it,” Eugene said.

Added Masha, “She remembers every course and every hole. If she repeatedly goes to one course, she’ll remember how she played there and what her challenges were.”

Overall, one of her biggest challenges is the having the patience required to complete a tournament.

“Golf is a game that requires a tremendous amount of patience. It’s not a reactive sport, like soccer or tennis where the ball is coming at you and you’re always in motion. In golf, the ball is stationary,” Eugene said. “Plus, in tournaments, you sometimes have to wait for someone else to hit. So you hit and you wait, and you hit and you wait. Part of our preparation for Isabella has been stressing the importance of patience ... she’s getting better and better at it.”

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