Caroline Hodge, a nine-year-old entering fifth grade at Murray Avenue School, earned the right to compete in the US Kids Golf World Championship by winning in her age group at the Connecticut World Championship Qualifier tournament on Monday, June 28 at Tashua Knolls Golf Course in Trumbull, Connecticut.
To qualify, she had to win her age division, which she did. She also had to hit a qualifying score, which for 9 holes was a 46: she shot a 40, only four over par.
Monday’s score was a huge advance since last year for Caroline, who began playing golf at age 7. Exactly one year ago at her first tournament – coincidentally at the Tashua Knolls event – she shot a 69. At the time, she wondered if she would ever get good enough to win.
It took a lot of practice – and greater focus – to bring her score down to the qualifying mark.
What motivated this young girl to take up golf? “It’s sort of an interesting sport – not many girls my age play it and my dad decided to get me a set of clubs,” Caroline told the Gazette after her win this week. “When he got me the clubs and I went to basics I got really into it.”
Caroline also plays soccer and lacrosse. But she likes golf because “it’s like a sport that you’re never perfect at – you can keep working on things, practicing on your swing,” she explained. Also, “It’s not a sport where you have to be careful that someone takes the ball from you.”
Caroline likes “doing the full swing.” The hardest part of the game “to me, sometimes is my focus. Sometimes I start out with my focus and then kind of lose it at the end,” she said.
But his week, at the qualifying tournament she had no trouble. “I started to think about what I’m going to shoot and I focused on seeing the scorecard.”
The Kids World Championship is played at Pinehurst Resort in Pinehurst, North Carolina and is the largest and most prestigious event for players 12 and under. This three-day tournament, held during the first week in August, attracts over 1,200 participants from across the US and more than 30 countries abroad. Caroline will be competing with over 70 girls her age from across the country and such places as Japan, the United Kingdom, China, Mexico, Canada, South Africa, Austria, Argentina, Philippines, Columbia, Slovenia and the Czech Republic.
When asked about her accomplishment, Caroline said, “It’s really exciting and I feel lucky to get this chance to play with and meet so many great players from all over the world.”
Her dad, Russell Hodge, said, “Caroline has been trying to qualify for almost two months. Believe me, she had her share of ups and downs along the way. I’m really proud of her for hanging in there, fighting through the disappointments and working hard to accomplish her goal. There were plenty of life’s lessons in this for sure.”
“I knew she could do it and I’m so proud of her,” said Alice Hodge, Caroline’s younger sister who a month ago also qualified for the World Championship.
Between now and the tournament, Caroline will be working on her golf and playing on the team at her club, Bonnie Briar. “I just got new clubs and I have to get used to them,” she said. “And I need to practice on focusing a little bit more.”