13-year-old’s hole-in-one caps summer of golf improvement
July 28, 2023
The odds of teeing off and sinking a hole-in-one are a little more than 12,000-to-1.
The odds of doing it at 13 are something Wyatt Cooper likely won’t fully comprehend until much later in his golf career.
But years of lessons, practice and perseverance came together for the incoming eighth grader on the sixth hole at Willow Run Golf Course this week, when he hit a 145-yard drive with his 3-wood, watched the ball fly to the back right corner of the green, hit a little hill and proceed to write a chapter in his young golf history.
“When it first went down the hill, I was thinking I got a pretty good roll since I had a little draw, so I figured I could tap it for birdie, and then I saw it rolling, and it dropped into the hole, and I freaked out,” he said.
“Hole-in-ones happen maybe more frequently than you think, but to see one at that age level and especially from the distance he played – he played the blue tee, which is the second-to-back tee – so to get one from his age using the club he used is pretty special. It’s pretty rare,” said Drew Trautman, who has instructed Cooper through the GreatLIFE Golf Academy the past two years.
“He’s a great kid, a hard worker, and you never have to worry about him putting in the effort. It’s cool to see that work and effort pay off the way that it did.”
Cooper started golfing when he was 7, encouraged by his dad, and he took to the sport for multiple reasons.
“I just like how it’s set up more mental-based instead of all athletic skill-based,” he said. “There’s a lot of skill, but it’s not just about who can run the fastest. There’s mental strength. And I like that you can do it with a group or by yourself, and it’s just fun. Drew helps you with anything you want. He’ll ask what I want to work on, and I tell him, and we go over it.”
Since the GreatLIFE Golf Academy opened three years ago at Willow Run, Trautman has seen many kids like Cooper make big progress on their game.
“From where we started to where we are now, as a coach it’s very special to see and very cool,” he said.
“All our kids put in the time and effort, and sometimes it’s hard to see progression in a sport that can be frustrating. Wyatt is no different. Two or three years ago, he’d be playing around 100, and last week he set his personal record of 79 on a GreatLIFE Junior Tour event. And we’re seeing that with a lot of our students.”
How much so? One of Trautman’s mottos with students is to “be a goldfish,” in other words, have a short memory span when things don’t go right on the course. He bought a goldfish driver head cover, and whichever student sets a personal best gets to keep it until someone else sets one.
“So it’s a traveling trophy in a sense, and the coolest thing is I don’t think a kid has had it more than a week because all these kids have been putting in hard work,” he said. “We go 12 months, and they grind during the winter, and they’re in there two or three times a week working on their swings and see that pay off.”
They’re also learning valuable life lessons along the way. A few weeks ago, Cooper was “having trouble just finding the golf ball,” Trautman said. “He pushed through that, he put the work in, and he’s in a position now where he has a hole-in-one, and he’s setting personal records. It’s a great example to other students and just in general to keep on keeping on and you can do it.”
It’s a lesson the Ben Reifel Middle School student seems to have internalized too.
“Not every day in golf is going to be a good day,” Cooper said. “It helps you get mental strength and patience.”
Playing competitively helps too, Trautman said. The GreatLIFE Junior Tour exposes kids to consistent competition because “in golf, there’s a very black-and-white difference between playing a casual round and playing a tournament round,” he said. “Getting our younger kids out there and comfortable with tournament golf is extremely important.”
But the bigger benefit is the community formed and the values taught.
“We’re making them better golfers, but we really want to make them better people,” Trautman said. “The value of perseverance and dedication and discipline pay off in ways far beyond golf, and the friendships they’re making do too. They’re building relationships that are going to last on and off the course.”
As for Cooper, he has a goldfish coming back to his golf bag. Thursday, he beat his personal best again, with a 78 at Bakker Crossing Golf Course.
Is your young golfer ready to take the next step in the sport? The GreatLIFE Junior Golf Academy is a year-round program and is accepting new players for fall and winter. To learn more, email [email protected] or call 605-651-1768.