In an era where it's common to hear that golf's popularity with young people is in decline, 12-year-old Matai Naqica is digging his heels into the sport. Naqica is a member of the Timm Golf Academy …
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In an era where it's common to hear that golf's popularity with young people is in decline, 12-year-old Matai Naqica is digging his heels into the sport.
Naqica is a member of the Timm Golf Academy All-Stars, a team based in Centennial that recently finished third at the PGA Junior League Regional in Texas. Before that, the team took the Colorado Section Championship at Thorncreek Golf Course in Thornton.
The seventh-grader at Laredo Middle School said his ultimate dream would be to play professional golf. Naqica, who lives in Centennial, answered a few questions about his life and the game he loves.
How did you first get into golf?
It all started when I was little and my dad pressed the wrong button on the TV remote. It switched to the Golf Channel. When he changed the channel back to cartoons, I started to scream and cry. Then, when he switched the channel back to golf, I was fine again. My dad never knew about golf until I started to play. My grandfather bought me my first club when I was 3 years old, and I've been playing golf ever since.
I was in third grade when I met Rick Timm for the very first time. We were doing this golf session at my elementary school, and he was impressed with my skills. Coach Rick wanted me to play in the U.S. Kids Golf Local Tour. After a year of playing on that, Coach Rick asked me to join his PGA Jr. League team in 2016. After the league matches, Coach Rick selected me to join his All-Star team.
What's your favorite memory with the team?
When my team shot one of the lowest scores in the country, of -18. My teammate, Yusuke Ogi, and I shot a 29 (-7). We had a ton of pizza afterwards and topped the day off with some ice cream. It was a great achievement for my team and one of the best days of my life.
What's the biggest challenge you've faced in playing golf?
My biggest challenge was winning the Junior Golf Alliance of Colorado Championship this year. I was pretty much in last place in the championship last year. This year, I was down five strokes after the first day and in fifth place. On the last five holes of the second day, I holed out for eagle and birdied three more holes. I shot a 69 and ended up winning by two strokes. I got a huge trophy, and it was worth all the training I put in this summer.
What has kept golf interesting to you and your teammates?
Golf is a social sport and it is fun! I enjoy hanging out with friends on the golf course and it feels good when you shoot a low score.
Golf is my life — I don't ever want to give it up. My goal is to play college golf, and my ultimate dream would be to play golf professionally. I look up to Tony Finau because it looks like he is always having fun on the golf course and he bombs the ball.
What do you enjoy doing when you're not practicing or playing?
Sports stacking (cup stacking) and basketball are the other sports I play competitively. I also like to watch rugby, play board games with my family like Golfopoly (way better than Monopoly), travel to new places and play video games.
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