By Joseph Merkel
|Brandon Wilson enjoys spending time on the golf course with his father, Rob Wilson.|
Last summer, 98 Rock deejay Mickey Cucchiella invited the young star to join him on his radio show. Amazed at how knowledgeable Wilson was, Cucchiella couldn't resist issuing a challenge. When the show's producer asked Wilson if he thought he would beat Cucchiella in a golf game, Wilson played it cool: "Easily."
When asked how he knew he would beat Cucchiella, Wilson was blunt: "Because I'm better than him."
After nine holes and the score tied, it took Wilson only three playoff holes to take down someone more than 30 years his senior.
Now-9-year-old Wilson has put a stranglehold on the U.S. Kids Golf Philadelphia South Tournament series, winning the Player of the Year award three years running and beating out hundreds of others in his age group. If that wasn't enough, the prodigy joined the Junior Tour of Baltimore in 2008. In 2009, he made his presence known, winning all five tournaments he entered and yet another Player of the Year award.
|Brandon Wilson has been hitting golf balls since he was 2 years old.|
"He started playing at around 2 in the house and out in the yard, and by the time he was 4, he had a really good swing," Rob Wilson said. "We practiced and tried to get the fundamentals, and he's very easy to teach.
"It was natural the way it happened. We taught him the fundamentals … and the concept of left-arm straight, the way you grip it, eye on the ball, all the eye-hand coordination, things we got together in the beginning and we just took it from there."
Needless to say, Brandon Wilson was a bona fide natural. By the time he was 5, he was teaching not only his mother, but other members of Mount Branch Golf Club, his home course.
Though Wilson loves to win, like his favorite golfer Tiger Woods, it's the relationship with his father he enjoys the most.
"[I like] going out and playing with my dad and winning," Wilson said.
Wilson also plays soccer, basketball and is a talented lacrosse player, although he says those sports don't offer as much time spent with his dad.
"We spend the whole summer together, and practice every day," Rob Wilson said. "We always play games and stuff. It's not a grind like a tour player. He works hard and we play and he wins money. We get putting down, and we get trick shots down."
When Wilson asked his son what his favorite part of practicing was, it was a simple answer. "Beating you and winning money from you."
In his short career, Brandon Wilson has shown the confidence and ability to come through in the clutch at levels reserved for sports' elite.
"[We] play hard until the end, never quit," Rob Wilson said. "It's tough for kids to concentrate for three hours; the ones that do usually pull it off."
After dominating the competition over the last three years, it's now time for Brandon Wilson to take his game to the next step, and he's more than ready. His U.S. Kids Golf Player of the Year award automatically qualified him for the 2010 U.S. Kids Golf World Championship tournament.
Not only will the tournament boast more than 1,200 kids ages 5-12, but course length will also be something new for Wilson. Though he has played a full round before, the championship, held in the first week of August in Pinehurst, N.C., will be his first time playing 18 holes in a competition.
There are no rankings for youths Wilson's age, but his dad estimates him in the 60-65 percentile for his age. That's in the world, not the U.S.
However, at the end of the day, Wilson is still just a kid. And on a hot day, there's nothing he and his friends like to do more than kick back in the swimming pool. The pros are far away for Wilson, but with his skills, determination and pure love for the game, there's no telling where golf will take him.
Issue 150: June 2010