PDT Sports Editor
FRIENDSHIP — Some kids graduate from crawling to baby walkers, but in Cameron Phillips’ case, he made the jump from crawling to chipping golf balls around his family’s living room.
The 6-year-old out of West Portsmouth has been wielding a golf club since he was able to walk and as he has grown, so has his passion and ability for the game.
“As soon as he could start walking he has been swinging a club,” Cameron’s father Tyson Phillips said. “First we got him the little plastic golf clubs and when he could barely stand up, he would swing and miss right-handed and automatically come back left-handed and send it soaring across the living room at 18 and 19 months old.”
As the head golf professional at Shawnee State Park Golf Resort, Tyson Phillips is wired into the golf community and because of the father and son’s mutual interest, the two have traveled to different tournaments enjoying the youth golf circuit together. On June 18, Cameron and his dad traveled to Indianapolis to compete in a U.S. Kids Tour Qualifier. His performance qualified him for the U.S. Kids Tour World Championships Aug. 2 in Pinehurst, N.C.
One of the aspects has father was most surprised about his son’s game is how effortlessly Cameron has picked up the minutiae of golf.
“The thing that surprises me the most is I don’t have to tell him to do anything,” Tyson Phillips said. “He will come to work with me and stay down at the putting and chipping greens and practice for hours. He’s very mature around the golf course and he will go out and play with all the older guys. His golf etiquette is superb. In his golf vocabulary, he knows what it all means. It helps when he’s coming with me to work and he is around it, but there is a lot less effort on my part as a dad and I can just enjoy watching him play.”
The next major tournament for the Phillips’ will be the Junior World Championships July 10 at Torrey Pines Golf Course in California. Cameron earned an invite through other tournaments and will be competing with other children his age from 30 countries. The opening ceremony of the tournament — which features boys and girls from less than 6 and older than 17 years of age — will be July 8, and Cameron will take part in the parade at the course.
“He will get a chance to walk around the course under the American Flag,” Tyson said. “It will be very enjoyable to see him walk around behind that flag.”
Golf is a generational institution for the Phillips’. The elder Phillips was introduced to golf by his grandmother, Barb Phillips, when he was 8. His interest in the sport sharpened as a teenager.
“I didn’t take it real serious until I was playing high school golf. A good buddy of mine, Andy Plummer, who works with guys on the PGA Tour on the stack-and-tilt golf swing, got me into the golf business down at Maysville Country Club in 1997,” Tyson Phillips said. “Then I went from Maysville Country Club up to Findlay Country Club for a couple years then down at Augusta, Ga., for the First Tee program teaching 1,200 kids there. Then I became the head pro here in 2004.”
Even though Tyson makes his living with golf, he says his son’s early progression in the sport required very little parental push.
“I didn’t force it on him at all. Most kids his age would much rather wake up and watch the Cartoon Network and he’s watching the Golf Channel and seeing who is winning or shooting what,” Phillips said. “As far as me being a dad, my part is to be proud because I don’t have to force anything on him and I know he is going to do the best he can every time.”
Despite being a lefty like PGA Tour player Phil Mickelson, Cameron says his favorite professional player is Tiger Woods because of the way he hits the ball. A fitting favorite as Tyson says the 6-year-old’s biggest strength is ball-striking and because Woods’ rise began at the same youth tournaments Cameron will be participating in this summer.
“He can get it airborne from anywhere,” Tyson said. “Most kids his age that get lessons are rolling it and topping it a lot. He knows to open it up if he needs it high.”
Cameron’s habit of practicing on the greens at Shawnee State Park Golf Resort buds from putting being his favorite aspect of the sport and the practice will likely pay off come July when his father will be his caddy.
No matter the outcome, father and son are both looking forward to being on courses where the PGA pros regularly play.
“He’s going to be playing at two great venues where Tiger Woods and all them have won,” Tyson said.
When asked if he was excited about the upcoming tournaments, Cameron had a succinct answer. He nodded his head and smiled broadly at his father.
Bob Strickley may be reached at 740-353-3101, ext. 203, or email@example.com.