8-year-old phenomenon Jessy Huebner continues to roll
The nickname also is fitting because Huebner’s golf career is taking off – and has been for a couple of years.
The latest example? The Port St. Lucie resident received an exemption into a Florida State Golf Association junior event last weekend because he has not reached the minimum age of 9.
Good thing for Huebner he doesn’t act his age. He shot the low round of the tournament each day, a 75 and 74, to win the 9-10 age division by five shots on a 4,799-yard course at Palatka Golf Club.
“I expect to win,” Huebner says matter-of-factly, not brashly.
The numbers back him up. Jessy has won 83 of the 132 tournaments he has entered, with 26 runner-up finishes, according to records compiled by his family.
No wonder a bookcase in the Huebner household is filled with enough trophies and medals to satisfy a classroom of kids.
“We might need an extra shelf,” Huebner says with a grin.
There is no “might.” Huebner’s prolific success at such a young age includes age-bracket victories at the 2016 U.S. Kids World Championship at Pinehurst, a pair of Doral Junior Golf Classic titles and the Honda Classic Junior Championship.
It wasn’t a tough call for Kyle Walkiewicz, the FSGA’s director of junior golf, to give Huebner the special exemption into the state association’s events.
“You have to have exceptional ability to ‘play up,’” Walkiewicz said. “When you’re 8 going into 9, there’s usually not a whole lot to go on. When I started looking at what Jessy has done and you also go by word-of-mouth from other kids and parents who have watched him play, it wasn’t a tough decision.
“It’s kind of like Lexi Thompson when she was 10 and beating everyone in 13-to-15.”
Thompson, it should be pointed out, was the youngest to qualify for a U.S. Women’s Open (12), the youngest to win on the LPGA Tour (16) and at 22 she already has a major championship (and should have two).
Does this mean Huebner can plan for a career on the PGA Tour? Of course not. The game is filled with child prodigies who never parlayed their early success into wealth and fame.
But you have to like Jessy’s chances.
“He’s probably one of the most talented kids I have seen. He hits the ball great, has an unbelievable short game and has a real smart golf IQ.”
With his blonde hair and Under Armour apparel, Jessy looks a lot like Jordan Spieth, who is one of his favorite players. Funny thing is, Huebner’s mother, Lena, introduced her son to golf at 2, but only as a complimentary sport for her first love of tennis.
“I could see he was very athletic at an early age,” said Lena, who is from Russia and has taught her son to speak the language. “He could hit foam balls over the net when he was 2. Now, tennis is his complimentary sport.”
Jessy was born in Miami Beach, but his family moved to Colorado when he was 2 before coming back to South Florida. Two years ago, they bought a home at PGA Golf Village, just off the first green of the Wanamaker Course.
Jessy is the youngest member at PGA Golf Club, making his daily presence felt with a smile and a wave. Jessy knows he’s fortunate to have three championship courses out his back yard, not to mention the PGA Learning Center.
He isn’t afraid to speak his mind. When asked why he isn’t interested in the national Drive, Chip and Putt competition, he didn’t hold back.
“I don’t like it because the worst player can win it and the best player can take last place,” Jessy said. “I think it’s kind of dumb because all you do is hit two drives, two chips and two putts. Then you wait 30 minutes for your next turn.”
His mother is confident her son, who is a third-grader at Sun Grove Montessori School, won’t burn out with golf because he only plays the sport a couple of hours a day and has other interests.
“He plays the piano, and he loves to read,” Lena said. “A lot of kids he plays against are home-schooled and they end up paying golf 5 to 6 hours a day, which I think is way too much. For most of the other kids, all they think about is golf.”
But if her son keeps winning tournaments, the Rocket will continue to blare. Not that he’s too thrilled about the sobriquet.
“I prefer being called Jessy,” he said.
Nips wins age group
Fellow Port St. Lucie resident, Gloria Nip, shot 73-77 to win the girls 11-12 division of the FSGA tournament at Palatka by 11 shots. Nip has qualified for her second Drive, Chip and Putt national finals at Augusta National April 1 for the second time in three years.