Local six-year-old golfer to compete in world championship tournament
Could Sam Vinc become the next Tiger Woods?
Woods began swinging a golf club when he was just two years old. Sam started driving balls off a tee in his backyard at the age of three.
Now at age six, this phenom from Brockton — a small town outside Tamaqua — has qualified for the seven-year-old U.S. Kids World Championship, to be held in Pinehurst, North Carolina in early August. The tournament will feature young golfers from 50 countries as far away as Brazil and Russia.
“My father-in-law bought him a set of junior golf clubs when Sam was just three,” said Jared Vinc, his father. “He started hitting balls straight about 30 yards. He never missed with his swing and always made solid contact.”
Sam, who now drives the ball as far as 130 yards, began competitive play at age four. At these young ages, the course is shortened and nine holes are played. Sam placed second in a tournament outside of Philadelphia with a score of 45, just nine shots over par.
From last August through this November, he won first place in six of the eight tournaments he played at the Philmont and Huntington Valley Country Clubs to qualify for regional and world championship tournaments.
Sam’s success has come with no lessons from a private instructor, although he has attended a Schuylkill County Junior Golf Camp in the summer. During this time of year, Sam will hit balls into a net set up in the garage, and he practices his putting on a mat. When the weather clears, his father will take him to a driving range and occasionally, they will play on a regulation 18-hole course.
“You can tell Sam loves golf when he keeps his focus while playing four hours for a full 18 holes,” said Vinc. “And the funny thing is that when other golfers see him with me on the course, they’re thinking he’s my caddie, but it’s the other way around.
“Should I also say that Sam beats me, too?” Vinc added with a laugh.
When he was asked why he likes to play golf, Sam replied with a little jump in his voice.
“I like it because it’s fun,” he said. “I like to win, too.”
To those who play, frustration can set in because the game has so many different elements to master. Vinc recalled one tournament day that Sam became upset with himself.
“He shot a 48 for nine holes and I could tell he was a little angry,” explained Vinc. “On the very next day, on the same course, I could see he was determined to do better. He shot a one-under, par 35 — 13 strokes better than the day before.”
Sam’s long game is better than his short game. He likes to hit the ball far more than he likes to try to make putts on the greens.
He has qualified to compete in two U.S. Kids seven-year-old regional tournaments in April at the Seaview Open in Atlantic City, New Jersey and at the Golden Horseshoe Golf Club in the Colonial Williamsburg Classic in Virginia before he plays at the world championships in August.
For anyone, even Jared Vinc, just the thought of six- and seven-year-olds playing in world championship golf tournaments might be a bit too much for kids who are only in their first and second grades.
“We’ll just see where it all goes,” said Vinc. “For now, he just loves to play.”
To avoid burnout, Sam plays basketball and baseball, and he loves to build things with his Legos.
When he was asked what he wants to be when he grows up, his answer will certainly surprise no one.
“I want to be a golfer,” he said enthusiastically.