Leng, 10, already a championship veteran
LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. -- Imagine playing at Augusta National, Pinehurst and Disney. Now imagine doing that by age 10, and winning three -- and possibly four -- championships in the process.
For Jay Leng Jr. of Rancho Santa Fe, California, these lifelong bucket-list dreams are just part of the path to what he hopes will be a professional golf career, just like his favorite player, Jordan Spieth.
Leng Jr. is well on his way. He won the 2015 PGA Drive, Chip & Putt Championship for the 7-9 Division (at age 9) at Augusta, sinking a clutch putt in a playoff to clinch. He’s also a two-time U.S. Kids Golf World Champion for his age group (2014, 2015).
Now, he is competing in an event that he loves as much, if not more, than the others: the PGA Junior League Golf Championship. Leng Jr. and Team California are playing in Sunday’s championship against Team Georgia at Disney’s Palm Course in Lake Buena Vista, Florida.
“This is probably one of the best experiences of my life,” Leng Jr. said. “I get to hang with my friends, playing as a team. Being able to work together. If I don’t play well, we can still play good together.”
Team California Captain John Mason, PGA Director of Instruction at Encinitas Ranch Golf Course in San Diego, thinks he may have the next Spieth on his hands.
"I started working with Jay when he was 6, and he was making putts better than anyone I have ever seen," Mason said. "I once watched him one-putt eight greens in a row, outside of 10 feet. That’s Jordan Spieth."
When Leng Jr. was 8, Mason wanted to teach him how to hit a flop shot, but his pupil was puzzled as to why. Mason explained it was to get over the lip of a high bunker that is close to the green. Leng Jr. explained there was no need. He proceeded to hit two shots in a row within a foot of the hole.
"So, I told him, I guess you don’t need to learn the flop shot," Mason said.
What is so refreshing is the sense of humor that Leng Jr. displays and his insistence that team golf is more important than any individual accolade he has earned.
"He ranks being on the All-Star Team higher than anything he has done," said his father, Jay Leng. "Golf is his type of thing. He is a natural-born type of player, and he works so well with John Mason."
Leng Jr. credits his father for his love of the game and his Captain for refining it.
"I’ve been playing for four-and-a-half years," Leng Jr. said. "It came natural to me after watching my dad play. My coach has meant a lot to me. He has been a great help to get me this far."
Watch out, Jordan and Cameron. Here come Jay and John.