U.S. JUNIOR AMATEUR
When His Elders Talk, a Young Coody Listens July 20, 2014 By Stuart Hall

U.S. Junior Amateur competitor Pierceson Coody (blue shirt, white hat) comes from a golf pedigree. (USGA/Jonathan Ernst)

THE WOODLANDS, Texas – Pierceson Coody did as his father, Kyle, advised, even if Pierceson chose to do it his own way.

At the 2014 U.S. Junior Amateur Championship qualifier, held June 9 at the Vaquero Club in Westlake, Texas, Coody was 2 under par through 30 holes and coming off a three-hole stretch that included two bogeys. 

I was just trying to keep him in an aggressive mode, said Kyle, who suggested a couple more birdies might be needed to secure his place in this week’s championship at The Club at Carlton Woods’ Nicklaus Course.

The younger Coody took the words to heart. He approached the downhill 375-yard, par-4 fourth hole, which was also playing downwind and featured a green with a tucked hole location that was protected by water on the right. He also took a more aggressive playing approach, which meant eschewing the 4-hybrid and wedge that he used on the hole during the practice and morning rounds.

Off the tee, Coody chose driver and drove the ball into a greenside bunker, from which he got up and down for a birdie. He added one more birdie to shoot a second successive 2-under 69 and win the qualifier with a 4-under 138 score.

I never realized he would pull out driver on that hole, said Kyle, who played collegiately at the University of Texas and then spent eight years traveling and playing various international and mini-tours. If I was caddieing for him, he would not have had the opportunity to pull the driver from the bag.

Oh, to be young and fearless, though.

Pierceson, 14, of Plano, Texas, is among the youngest players in this week’s field – which has an average age of 16.24 – and is making his USGA championship debut. 

In Monday’s opening round of stroke play, Coody shot a 9-over 81.

It was a long day, I just didn’t hit the ball well, Coody said. It was a good experience, good competition, but I just couldn’t get it to quite click today.

Barring a strong turnaround on Tuesday, Coody likely will miss the cut. And if there is some solace in that fact, then it will be that his grandfather also missed the cut in his first USGA championship.

Yes, Pierceson and his fraternal twin brother Parker, also an emerging golfer, are the grandsons of Charles Coody, the 77-year-old Central Texas native who won the 1971 Masters and played on the USA Ryder Cup team. These days, Charles owns Diamondback Golf Course in Abilene, Texas.

I’m their biggest supporter, said Charles, who missed the cut at the 1960 U.S. Open at Cherry Hills Country Club as an amateur and lost, 3 and 2, to Downing Gray in the U.S. Amateur Championship semifinals two years later at Pinehurst No. 2. I try and stay out of the way when it comes to their swings and such, because you can have too many people telling you too many different things. Then you become all messed up, so I just offer them positive encouragement.

While Charles and Kyle leave the technical coaching of Pierceson to Chris Como, lead instructor at Gleneagles Country Club in Dallas, they both advocate the process of visualizing positive shots. Charles said he learned that from A.G. Mitchell, who was said to have worked with Ben Hogan.

The bad shots still creep into Pierceson’s game, mainly because he is just now starting to focus more of his time on golf. While Pierceson has played golf since an early age, he was interested in other sports initially. That began to change about three years ago.

I would play about once a month between the first and fifth grades, but I just didn’t like it, said Pierceson, a rising high school freshman. The summer before seventh grade I started to change my thinking about the game. It was no longer just a hobby, but a true sport and now I want to see how good I can become.

Pierceson believes the results will come if he continues to put in the time. He enjoys the process of practicing, which his father and grandfather both applaud, and says there is no fast track to catch others who have more experience.

There’s plenty of quality golf here in the state of Texas, said Kyle, adding that Pierceson likely will not begin playing a regular American Junior Golf Association schedule for another year. He’s 14 and doesn’t need to be playing at the 15-16 level yet. The main thing is that he keeps developing and having fun.

Monday’s opening round might not have been all that fun for Pierceson, but he took the round in stride.

Hopefully, I will play better tomorrow, Pierceson said.

Indeed, tomorrow is another day.

Stuart Hall is a North Carolina-based freelance writer whose work has appeared on usga.org and usopen.com.