The Journal Gazette
 
 
Sunday, July 14, 2019 1:00 am

10-year-old finds passion: Golf

Family travels together for tournaments

CHARLOTTE STEFANSKI | The Journal Gazette

For most fifth graders, summer is for pool parties and family vacations.

But for Landon Snyder, it means preparing for the British Kids Championship golf tournament on Aug. 8 in Woodhall Spa, England.

At just 10 years old, Landon typically shoots between 72 and 76 on an 18-hole course. This spring, he came in first place in almost every tournament he's played in.

His love for golf started at the age of 3, watching his father, Matt, practice, and PGA tournaments on television.

After playing with a plastic set in his backyard, his parents signed him up for a summer golf camp at the Fort Wayne Country Club.

“We signed him up along with our daughter, and he absolutely loved it,” Matt said. “It was from that moment on, we just spit-balled all the time outside with the neighbor kid, and he never stopped.”

Landon played in his first tournament around age 6. Matt and his wife, Staci, weren't sure if their son would enjoy the competition aspect of the sport, but he did well, and Landon's love for the sport snowballed from there.

While balancing grade school and golfing, Landon practices anywhere from two to five times a week. For the winter months, his parents installed a golf simulator at their home.

During tournament season, Landon typically plays in five different leagues, including U.S. Kids Golf, PGA Junior League, the Fort Wayne Parks and Recreation Department, the Hurricane Tour and the Indiana Golfers Association.

While he's not practicing at home, Landon is coached by Albert Jennings at APEX Golf Lab.

“His goal is to teach a lot of kids how to play golf and get better at it,” Landon said. “He has fun games that you don't know that you're practicing. I talk to him after every practice, and he always asks if I have fun.”

Jennings has coached Landon for about three years and said the way Landon understands the game gives him an edge

“He digests the game very well, so he can turn that physical skill into scores,” Jennings said. “If you lined him up with kids his own age, you might tell he's a little better, but maybe not much, if they're just taking shots. As soon as they get on the course, you'd see just how much more skilled he is and how he understands.”

Landon's parents didn't imagine golf being such a big part of their lives, but now they find themselves dedicated.

“We bought a lake cottage and a boat, and when the golf stuff started, we turned around and sold the boat and the cottage, because we don't have time. We're golfing,” Matt said.

As Landon travels around the Midwest and even as far as New Jersey, his parents are always by his side, with Matt caddying sometimes.

This spring, Landon won the Indianapolis local tour, and came in fourth among his age group at the Ohio state tournament. He's had two top five finishes at the U.S. Kid's Golf Championship at the Seaview Open in New Jersey.

He played in an 18-hole tournament in Pinehurst, North Carolina just a year ago, finishing in 15th place out of 50.

“It's great, but it's stressful. It's more stressful than going to work,” Matt said. “It's fun to watch the amazing things that he can do with a golf ball as a 9-year-old kid.”

The most rewarding part for Staci is watching the friendships her son forms on and off the course, whether it be at home or in another state.

“He's met some of his best friends on the golf course. Golf is an individual sport, but there's a lot of togetherness in golf,” Staci said. “He gets really excited when his buddies are going to be playing against him, but they're still great friends in the end.”

While Landon will be overseas for his next tournament in less than a month, the thing he's looking forward to most is still golf.

He hopes to rank in the top 10, and in the future, make it to a PGA Tour.

“I want him to get better and fulfill any dreams that he has, in the game or out of the game,” Matt said. “Whether it be playing or teaching, whatever it might be.”

“I hope he continues to the love the game, and if he doesn't, it's OK,” Staci said. “Just to find what he loves and do what he loves, and continue to keep at it.”


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