Take 5: Breck golf prodigy Jessy Huebner wins 2016 U.S. Kids World Golf Championship
August 16, 2016
Jessy Huebner is a wunderkind of Tiger Woods caliber.
On Aug. 6 at gorgeous Mid Pines Golf Club in Pinehurst, North Carolina, the 7-year-old part-time Breckenridge local was crowned winner at the U.S. Kids World Golf Championship. Over the course of three hot and sweltering days — the club is found about 2.5 hours inland from the Atlantic coast — he shot a 101 on 27 holes (one round of nine per day) to finish at seven under par with an astounding 10 birdies. That's five strokes ahead of the second-place finisher and the entire field of 1,500 youth golfers from 52 countries, all on a pro-level course known for long drives, narrow fairways and tricky greens.
"It was a PGA-quality course," said Jessy's mom, Lena Huebner, a week after the two returned with trophy in tow to their primary home in Port Saint Lucie, Florida. "You have to play smart, you have to play the greens well and you have to find the perfect speed. If you're just a little off the ball would just miss."
Jessy's championship crown is hardly a fluke. Since learning to swing a club at 4 years old with his father, Jessy Sr., the youngest Huebner has been dominating tournaments across the country. He's played in 94 tournaments and won six state or regional events in the south, along with one title each at the Doral-Publix Junior Golf Classic and the Honda Junior Classic Championship.
"He's a walking golf library," Lena said, and it's true. Ask Jessy about his tactic at the Mid Pines championship and he'll dive into shot choice, putting strategy and why his drive was a secret weapon. It's not as though he's repeating something he heard somewhere — he truly understands the game.
Maybe that's why his family moved from the mountains to the coast. Lena admits that she, her husband and and her son "miss Breckenridge all the time," but, for now, Florida is the best place to train year-round on the links. It's not that golf is the only thing on Jessy's roster — he also loves baseball, basketball, swimming and playing piano — it's just that he wants to play his sport of choice all day, any day, for as long as he can.
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During a lull between the championship and Jessy's first day back to class at a Florida Montesori school, the Summit Daily sports desk caught up with the Huebners to talk about Jessy's first major win, his favorite Breckenridge course and how he plans to go from wunderkind to PGA pro.
Summit Daily News: Congrats on your title, Jessy. Is this your first time winning the World Championship?
Jessy Huebner: Yes, I've participated three times. The first time I took 25th, the second time I tied for fifth and this time I had first place. I think this time the distances were good for me. This course really fits me. All of the courses around me (in Florida) are similar to the championship course.
SDN: You felt comfortable, even with those tough greens?
JH: Yeah, I felt comfortable with the greens. The greens were fast, but I train on very fast greens so I'm used to those greens. They're familiar.
Lena Huebner: They were angulated greens and it helps to learn how to read those greens. Jessy plays with his daddy — with his coach — and he helped him to read the greens. In my opinion he found good momentum. He had a lot of confidence.
SDN: Is putting your biggest strength on the course, or is it something else?
JH: I would say driving and putting. I can knock the ball farther than other children, sometimes by a lot. It's a big advantage when I can get the distance.
LH: He can drive far, but he's also a very good putter. He only three-putted one time during the entire championship.
JH: Yes, on the last hole, but that's OK.
SDN: How was the rest of your season?
JH: I was winning all across Florida state. I broke the record at Jekyll Island (in Georgia) at a regional event and made a 15-under there. I just think I've been getting better and better every year.
SDN: A 15-under-par is impressive — I don't know many adults who play that well. Where do you play when you're in Breckenridge?
JH: I really like the Elk Course. It's a really tough course. On some holes you have to play aggressive just to make par, and others you have to place safe to make par. It's a very back-and-forth kind of course. You have to stay calm through the entire round, because if you don't it will be tough to play pars and birdies on that one. It's very tough.
SDN: How does golf in Colorado compare to golf in Florida, or anywhere on the East Coast?
JH: Well, I think Colorado has the elevation, so everything goes farther on you. Out here there's none of that so it won't go as far. Here, I can hit my driver around 180 pretty regularly. I get more in Colorado.
LH: Yes, a lot of times we're at low elevations, so the ball just stops. You also have wind and that also just makes the ball stop. It can be difficult to find advantage on other courses. In Colorado it's a little but different. He's good at driving, again, so that helps with him. The grass is also different in Colorado.
SDN: What's on your schedule for the rest of summer?
JH: Well, school starts Monday, so we'll probably go to a couple of local tournaments until the end of August. The next major tournament is a regional in Florida for the USGA, and that will be in October.
SDN: Do you get to play golf just about every day when you're in Florida?
JH: Well, we're in Florida pretty much all of the time. It doesn't get snowy down here, but it does get kind of cold down here, so December is busy. On Christmas break I'll be at five or six big tournaments in just a couple of weeks.
SDN: Your mom told me you're planning a trip to Scotland next May. Is that your first trip to Scotland? It's the birthplace of golf.
JH: Yes. I will love it.
LH: It will be a special trip, for sure. You have to get there in advance so you get used to the time change. It will be very different, but it might be just like Breckenridge (laughs). From the pictures I can tell it will be a lot of hills. I don't think there will be a lot of advantage with the driver, but you also get a lot of wind and that will be an advantage for him. In Florida you get a lot of wind in the winter, but Jessy is good with adjusting.
SDN: Do you want to be a golfer when you grow up?
JH: Yeah, I would love to be a professional golfer on the PGA tour. The competition of the game is something I would really like.
LH: Jessy does good with competition: the more competition, the better the course — something gets inside of him. In the PGA they talk about the "king of the playoffs," and that's Jesse. He gets super-competitive and doesn't have a fear when it comes to playoffs. A PGA tournament will be tough — there are a lot of really good players, and everyone is equally good — so it will be tough just to get there. But that is the goal, and that's what he wants to do. We'll see what happens.
SDN: Your game is so good right now, but even pros admit they can always get better. What are you working on?
JH: Not getting frustrated.
LH: Like I always say, "Jessy, your biggest opponent is Jessy Huebner. You can't get angry with yourself — take it one shot at a time." He is totally in control of himself so much. When he has a bad shot, he's able to come back with a birdie.
SDN: But golf isn't the only thing you do, right? What else do you do for fun?
JH: I also like playing tennis and playing basketball and baseball and going to the pool. I love going to the pool. I also play piano. Elvis is one of my favorites.
LH: It's important to do more than golf. He has to keep things balanced. He also likes skiing, but he has to keep it easy with training and can't get hurt. It can be a dangerous sport.
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