Future US Open Champ

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This is Diana Nyad for KCRW, and this is The Score.

Remember this name: Ben Doyle. This weekend, down at San Diego's Torrey Pines, the world's best golfers vie for the U.S. Open Championship title. Michelson, Goosen, Garcia, Tiger. Ten years from now, a name very likely in the Open hunt just might be Ben Doyle.

When you see the home movies of a precocious Tiger Woods, taking a fairly elegant swing as a toddler, you think he's a prodigy, drawn to a 7-iron much as Mozart was drawn to a keyboard. You can't imagine that more than one or two kids per generation could possibly have both the raw talent as well as the focus and desire to practice a mentally demanding sport such as golf at extremely young ages. But you can pretty much count on the fact that all your favorite players, men and women, who play world-class golf, week-end after week-end, actually did start at tender ages.

Ben Doyle was two. The two-year-olds I know waddle around pushing plastic toy lawn mowers. Ben already had the base of his swing--by two. By four he was playing tournaments. He may have spoken baby talk to turn in his score card but he could already manage his way around 18 holes. By seven, Ben was the United States Junior Kids Champion--and the World Junior Kids Champion.

Today, he's twelve and travels all over the country from his San Diego home--to North Carolina, Florida, Virginia for tournaments. He's only 5' 1", 88 pounds, but drives 230 yards on average. And already ten years into it, he says he relishes practicing and hasn't experienced even a day of burnout.

Ben goes out mornings for three hours by himself. He doesn't fool around ducking behind trees to play video games. He doesn't play pranks on other kids out on the course. He manages his time, starting with tee shots from the range, then working his short game, then maybe an hour of putting. He says he needs to work on the mental discipline of putting most right now.

ben_and_taylor.jpg I asked Ben if he ever gets mad when his shots hook or slice. He said he occasionally slams a club but he also says he expressly concentrates on keeping his mind strong and in positive focus. Ben's sister Taylor is a very good golfer, too. She'll be going to University of Colorado, Boulder, on a golf scholarship in the fall. But she's the first to admit that she hasn't pursued her sport all these years out of a pinpoint passion. Taylor has recognized that golf has been good for keeping her grounded and helping her get ahead in her young life, but she has very much not wanted to miss out on the social aspects of teenage life. She plans on a career as a criminal defense lawyer. Ben, meanwhile, thinks of nothing but playing on the pro tour. He was thrown into a round with baseball pitcher Greg Maddox recently.

Maddox shot an 82. Twelve-year-old Ben shot 77. Like I said, remember that name. Ben Doyle.

Before I go today, let me offer a quick remembrance of the great Jim McKay who died this past weekend. I had the great fortune to start my sports broadcasting career at ABC Sports when Jim was the king of the sports airwaves. He has been eulogized all week as a master storyteller, a gentle soul, a modest star. And all that he was. The first event I had the chance to work with him, I saw him outside, furiously writing notes on a legal pad.

He was about to interview the main athletes of the event. I said, "Jim, after all these years, I'm surprised that you still write down all your interview questions."

And he said to me, "Oh, these aren't the questions. These are the answers. I'm going to make them say these things."

Jim McKay was a master of the spoken word. He could put his finger on the heartbeat of sports. What a privilege it was to know him, work with him, to sit next to him as he wove his smooth poetry on the air.

This is Diana Nyad for KCRW, and that's The Score.



Diana Nyad