Golf whiz: 6-year-old to compete at Junior Worlds
Glen Ullin, N.D. - Not long after he began walking, Gehrig Geiss showed a knack for golf.
The Glen Ullin boy's skill became obvious after his parents, Chris and Darla Geiss, bought 1-year-old Gehrig a set of plastic golf clubs.
Millions of parents give their children the colorful clubs as toys but few kids end up swinging them like Gehrig did.
By the time Gehrig was 18 months old, Chris noticed his son taking cuts with his plastic clubs much like adults would swing their metal woods or irons.
"When he was really little, his hand-eye coordination was great," Chris said. "At 18 months, we gave him a little pitching wedge cut down to his size. He'd always hit it like you should."
Not long after giving Gehrig the wedge, Chris and his father, Jim, went to the nine-hole Crossroads Golf Course outside of Glen Ullin on a regular outing and decided to take Gehrig along.
It was a fateful decision Chris will never forget.
As Jim stood on a fairway readying his shot, something startled him.
"All of a sudden, a ball came whistling by my dad's ear," Chris said. "(Gehrig) hit it from 35 yards and he wasn't even two yet."
Long before Gehrig could yell, "fore" he had used his pitching wedge to fire a straight-line shot past his grandfather. That's when Chris started to believe his son may naturally have the talent many golfers spend their entire lives working to attain.
Four years after nearly plunking his grandfather in the head, Gehrig is on golfing's biggest stage.
Well, for 6 year olds, that is.
Gehrig opens play at the Callaway Junior World Golf Championships 6-and-under tournament at 11:30 a.m. MDT today at San Diego's Colina Park Golf Course, an 18-hole, 1,569-yard, par-54 course operated by the Pro Kids Golf Academy. Gehrig will play three rounds against the best golfers his age from around the world.
"The whole field is going to be able to do what Gehrig can do," Chris said.
No matter how he finishes at the tournament, Gehrig will make history by becoming the first North Dakotan of any age to play in the Junior Worlds, an event held every year for players 18 and under.
He snagged the invitation after shooting a 51 over nine holes at the U.S. Kids Golf World Championship Qualifying tournament in June 2008 at Oak Marsh Country Club in St. Paul, Minn.
The Geisses were contacted by Callaway shortly after the tournament and asked if they'd like to apply for Gehrig to compete in the World Championships. Chris said they had to include Gehrig's golfing history -- a phrase he still chuckles about -- and compile a video of Gehrig's golf skills.
After submitting the application and video to Callaway, Chris decided to save the videos he made of Gehrig by putting them on YouTube.
While Chris posted the videos to share with the Geisses family and friends spread across the country, others have stumbled on the videos and expressed amazement at what they watch.
Comments on the videos are almost entirely positive. Several commenters use the phrase "the next Tiger Woods."
While Chris said the Geisses don't dwell too much on those types of comments, it's hard to argue with the assessments of experts who say Gehrig has limitless potential.
Tyler Reisenauer, the former pro at Heart River Golf Course, has worked with Gehrig for two years and said how well the boy swings a club continues to amaze him.
"He does everything right, as a 6-year-old," Reisenauer said. "He's got skills that it takes somebody five to 10 years of golf instruction to have. That's how talented he is. It's unbelievable."
Reisenauer believes there is no limit to how much Gehrig can improve his game because of his strong attention span.
"With most kids that age, they just want to hit the ball," Reisenauer said. "But he listens to you and he does what you tell him and you see the results right away."
While Gehrig's name is becoming more and more common in North Dakota's golfing community, Chris said he often hears comments from people who believe he is pushing his son too hard and at too early of an age.
He vehemently disagrees and instead tells them he's doing the same thing all fathers should do for their children -- providing Gehrig with experiences that will last a lifetime.
"We're not in it for the competitive edge right now like a lot of people are," Chris said. "I'm trying to let him feel his way. ... Hopefully if golf is in his future, then maybe this week is something that he can look back maybe five, six years from now."