Summer is a special time for children, and for Chloe Pierce of Ponte Vedra Beach, she started it off with a bang by winning the 2022 European Junior Golf Championship in the 9-year-olds division earlier this month.
The event was held at Longniddry Golf Club in East Lothian, Scotland, and is considered the second largest junior golf tournament in the world for golfers younger than 13 years old, only behind the world championship.
“I really felt nervous but also knew that I was ready to play,” Pierce said. “I knew I would have a chance to win, because I love playing golf and the competition gives me motivation to try and win.”
Consistency was the key to Pierce’s game throughout the event, as she shot 37 in each of the three rounds she played to finish at three-over par. Each round consisted of nine holes.
However, Pierce founded herself tied for the lead after all the rounds and wound up sinking a 15-foot putt on the first hole of a sudden death playoff to secure the victory with nearly 300 people huddled around the green watching.
Although the situation seemed to be a pressure-packed one, the 9-year-old remained calm and showcased a maturity for such a young age.
“I take the pressure that I have on the course to motivate me instead of having it mess me up,” Pierce said.
Her confidence continued to build as the tournament went on, and she began to realize winning the event was a possibility after her brother Stephen told her she was in the lead after the first day.
When she saw the ball go into the cup for the final time following the putt, she and her family were overcome with emotions.
“I was speechless and could not even talk, so I just hugged my dad,” Pierce said.
It was a family victory in many ways, as her dad was her caddie, and her brother was also playing in the tournament in the 11-year-old division with their mom as his caddie.
“I really enjoy it, because you get to spend five or six hours with your kid and we’re not on our phones,” said Stephen Pierce, Chloe’s dad. “We’re just walking, talking and hitting shots.”
With the win, Pierce beat an international field that consisted of many of the world’s most highly ranked 9-year-old golfers.
What makes Pierce’s win even more amazing is the fact that she only began playing golf about two years ago.
“She started playing because our oldest was really into golf and she would always come along and ride in the cart with us,” Stephen Pierce said. “We were like, ‘Hey, if we’re going to go to these tournaments, you are going to start playing, too.’”
She made the cut to qualify for last year’s tournament after just her first year playing, but her game continues to grow and after her win in Europe, she is looking forward to this year’s world championship in August at Pinehurst Golf Course in North Carolina.
There were many things different about playing in Scotland compared to what Pierce was used to in Florida, including the weather conditions and the makeup of the course.
“The first round was terrible weather,” Stephen Pierce said. “It was 41 degrees with wind and rain, but she played great. The good thing about her is that she doesn’t get fazed emotionally.”
As a result, hitting bump-and-run shots is an important aspect when playing “links” style courses, which meant that she had to adjust the way she approached the holes and the tournament in general.
“It was very hard to hit because your hands are freezing cold,” Chloe Pierce said. “The bunkers were way bigger and there were so many hills that were kind of like mini mountains. The greens were rock hard and were very fast.”
However, she was able to quickly adapt and felt comfortable with the course after just one practice round.
According to her dad, she was clutching the trophy almost the entire time on the plane ride back to the states and even used it as a pillow at times. The trophy currently has a place on the TV stand in the living room of the family’s home.
“It’s front and center,” Kelley Pierce said.
The trip was not entirely about golf, as the family also made sure to take some time to enjoy the Scottish culture in the days leading up to the tournament.
“We were able to tour Edinburgh going to the churches and castles and whatever else we could,” Kelley Pierce said. “There were a lot of bagpipes, and we got to hold a barn owl. The big part for us was letting them experience and be immersed in a different culture rather than just reading about it. For us, it was a win all the way around.”
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