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Golfing prodigy heads south for big test

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Brendan Kesterke carries a four handicap, has a tournament scoring average around 75 this summer and will be competing in major events in California and Florida this month.
Oh, and did we mention he just turned 13?


Kesterke, a member of Breezy Bend, is the kind of golfing wunderkind that makes the average mid- to high-handicapper grit their teeth as he makes the game look easy before he even gets to be five feet tall.


He drives the ball 220 yards, has soft hands around the greens and seems to play his best golf under tournament pressure.


"He seems able to pick it up in tournaments," said Egon Kesterke, Brendan’s father. "He’s very consistent. His scores don’t change that much."


Brendan thinks that might be because he tends to focus more in competition than when he’s just having a fun round with friends.


This year, in addition to winning the 13 to 14 age group at the Manitoba junior championship despite being just 12 at the time, Kesterke has been lighting up the local tournament scene.


He finished first and second in the two Maple Leaf Junior Tour events he entered, and won a Canadian Junior Golf Association event in Saskatoon to qualify for a trip to San Diego for the World Junior Championship this week.


From there he’ll head straight to Florida to compete in the Optimist International Junior Championships, which he qualified for with rounds of 72 and 74 in the provincial Optimist event.


He has some experience in big tournaments, having played in the Maple Leaf Tour Championship in Phoenix in 2010 and Orlando last season.


"I’m just hoping to play well and do my best," said Kesterke, who lives in Headingley.


Although he first got his hands on golf clubs when he was two, it wasn’t until about three or four years ago that Kesterke really began to focus on the game.


"He’s probably been swinging a club since he was four or five," Egon said. "He had a good swing from the get-go."


Once he started beating some of his older friends consistently, Kesterke began entering tournaments and finding success there as well.


His father taught him the basic fundamentals, but much of Kesterke’s improvement has come as a result of his own tinkering on the driving range.


He prefers to be on the course, but is willing to put in the practise to fix any parts of his game that aren’t working properly.


 "I just try to work on whatever shot I’m mishitting," he said. "I just see the shot I want to hit and try to hit it."


That sounds a lot like Masters champion Bubba Watson, but Kesterke says his favourite pro is Rickie Fowler.


While the driver and the short game are his strengths, Kesterke said he’s hoping to improve his iron game.


"It’s a bit of a weakness," he said. "But it’ll get better."


Somehow, it’s hard to doubt him.

avi.saper@canstarnews.com

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