Pint-size 11-year-old golfer from Concord is ready for the world

  • Gavin Richardson, 11, watches as his putt skirts the hole at Beaver Meadow Golf Course in Concord on Friday, July 27, 2018. (ELIZABETH FRANTZ / Monitor staff) ELIZABETH FRANTZ—Monitor staff

  • Gavin Richardson (left) and Josiah Hakala, both 11, practice putting at Beaver Meadow Golf Course in Concord on Friday, July 27, 2018. (ELIZABETH FRANTZ / Monitor staff) ELIZABETH FRANTZ—Monitor staff

  • Gavin Richardson (left) and Josiah Hakala, both 11, practice putting at Beaver Meadow Golf Course in Concord on Friday, July 27, 2018. (ELIZABETH FRANTZ / Monitor staff) ELIZABETH FRANTZ—Monitor staff

  • Gavin Richardson, 11, plays a few holes at Beaver Meadow Golf Course in Concord on Friday, July 27, 2018. (ELIZABETH FRANTZ / Monitor staff) ELIZABETH FRANTZ—Monitor staff

  • Gavin Richardson, 11, plays a few holes at Beaver Meadow Golf Course in Concord on Friday, July 27, 2018. (ELIZABETH FRANTZ / Monitor staff) ELIZABETH FRANTZ—Monitor staff

  • Gavin Richardson, 11, hits a ball out of a sand trap at Beaver Meadow Golf Course in Concord on Friday, July 27, 2018. (ELIZABETH FRANTZ / Monitor staff) ELIZABETH FRANTZ—Monitor staff

  • Gavin Richardson, 11, plays a few holes at Beaver Meadow Golf Course in Concord on Friday, July 27, 2018. (ELIZABETH FRANTZ / Monitor staff) ELIZABETH FRANTZ—Monitor staff

Monitor columnist
Published: 7/30/2018 9:27:13 PM

His tee shot on the first hole Friday at Beaver Meadow Golf Course sliced into the rough, the start of a frustrating day.

On other holes, an approach shot sailed over the green, he lipped out an 8-foot putt and he missed another fairway. He called his five-hole performance, “Terrible.”

Later, on the outdoor patio at what’s affectionately called The Beav, with the music blaring and the humidity sticking and his black hat pulled down over his eyes, Gavin Richardson stayed cool, making no excuses for his subpar play.

Perhaps other 11-year-old kids would have blamed nerves because the local columnist was driving him around the course, jotting down his every word, his every shot, and a local photographer was trailing behind with the kid’s grandmother, Kathy McAuliffe, in their own cart, shooting and videotaping and documenting.

Not Richardson, a golf phenom from Concord. No, he wasn’t nervous. No, the club that Beaver Meadow golf pro Phil Davis had sawed down to shorten it before the round didn’t have any negative effect. And no, it wasn’t the wind, the sun or the moon.

“I’ll need to play better,” Richardson said.

He shot a 2-over par for those five holes, a score that many around here would have loved. Not this kid, though. He’s competing in the U.S. Kids Junior World Championship at Pinehurst Resort golf course in North Carolina next week for the fifth straight year.

Winning local, state and regional championships is a regular routine for Richardson. His best showing on the world stage at Pinehurst was his first crack at it in 2014, a 23rd-place finish among 107 golfers in the 7-and-younger division. He finished tied for 50th in a field of 173 last year, when he was ranked in the top 30 for his age group nationwide.

He’s light and wiry, 5-foot-2, 84 pounds, yet he hits tee shots as far as 230 yards, meaning his hip rotation is out of this world. His short game is razor-sharp. The pros and instructors he works with sprayed accolades around like a bad golfer off the tee.

“He plays a game you don’t see around here very often,” said Davis. “He can produce shots that most people cannot do their entire lives.”

“He does not have a weakness,” said Patrick Gocklin, Richardson’s main coach and a well-known Manchester-based instructor. “He’s good at everything.”

The story, as it usually does, began in a backyard at a young age – in this case the grandmother’s backyard at age 4. Before long, the kid was hitting golf balls from the woods at 6:30 a.m.

“He’d get up in the morning and practice before breakfast and practice before kindergarten,” McAuliffe said.

From there, the story, as it usually does, continued with a call from the dad to coaches who know quickly if they have someone special auditioning for them, or if it’s a delusional parent going overboard.

Gocklin – who will caddy for Richardson at the World Championship, a three-round tournament that starts Thursday – got the call three years ago from Gavin’s father, Patrick Richardson.

So Gavin joined Gocklin at Hidden Creek, a course in Litchfield, on a lousy day for golf – cold, windy, raw.

“I said to myself that this was going to be interesting,” Gocklin told me. “It’s not an easy day to play and this was an unfamiliar course.”

The kid shot even par for nine holes.

“I saw a kid who loved to play and had good knowledge for his age on how to see shots on the course,” Gocklin said, “and how he needed to move the ball, left to right and right to left. After that session, I talked to Patrick and Lara (Gavin’s mom, Patrick’s wife) and said I would do everything possible to help Gavin grow and get him through the challenges.”

Here’s where the story might have needed a delicate touch. The story about the pushy parents, the ones who have lost perspective, the ones who see dollar signs and national headlines dancing in their heads.

Not so in this case, I was told. Patrick and Lara Richardson have seen parental tirades in the world of big-time junior golf. But they cite the fact that Gavin does not specialize in golf year-round, that he also loves basketball and soccer, that it’s his choice when to hit the fairways.

“Golf is very specialized, and there are a lot of kids at the World Championship that play year-round,” Patrick Richardson said. “They have coaches and trainers and this stuff and they live on the golf course and they can burn out. At 13 they don’t want to play anymore. Gavin recharges after the winter.”

“Once he started, he has not stopped, and we never had to push him,” Lara said. “If he wants to do it, we will support him. And if he does not want to, fine. I know a lot of parents are pushy and we are not like that.”

I asked members of Team Gavin – Davis and Gocklin – about this, even off the record to get a true sense about what was going on behind the scenes.

“They’re not those parents,” Davis said. “They’re supportive with a hands-off approach.”

“No, and I’m being very honest,” Gocklin said when asked about the subject. “(Patrick) has been great allowing me as a coach to guide Gavin. He is 100 percent there with Lara supporting, and I could not ask for anything more. They make it fun.”

The pressure comes from within Gavin himself. As Gocklin said, “He has goals in mind, and he is never satisfied with anything. Three bogies and he won’t be happy with that, I can tell you. I’ll ask him how he did and he’ll say, ‘Terrible. Grrr!’ ”

I heard ‘Grrr!’ a few times Friday at the Beav. Gavin described his play in a variety of ways, saying, “I hit it off my heel,” and “open face on impact,” and “too soft,” and “I hit it fat,” and “I have to work on closing the face.”

He never waited for the cart to stop before each shot, instead jumping out as though he had a spring attached. His energy belied his soft-spoken manner.

He took practice swings, but never spent too much time once addressing the ball, telling me, “I don’t want to get too many thoughts in my head. I don’t want to think too much.”

He reflected on his first World Championship, the one in which he was third after two of three rounds, then faded.

“I was nervous,” he said, “I hit a lot of bad shots.”

He’d like to be a pro someday, of course. He said he’d like to play in the Masters, perhaps as a 20-year-old.

He explained that forgetting about a bad stretch of play is “easy.”

“Just think how you normally play, think about your next shot,” he said.

He’ll need that mindset starting Thursday against the world’s best. And, if he chooses golf as a career, he’ll need it as an adult, in a game in which failure surfaces regularly, at a moment’s notice.

Gavin saw that Friday.

“It’s going to be a fun journey,” Gocklin said. “Let’s see where it goes.”

 

(Ray Duckler can be reached at 369-3304, rduckler@cmonitor.com or on Twitter @rayduckler.)




Concord Monitor Office

1 Monitor Drive
Concord,NH 03301
603-224-5301

 

© 2019 Concord Monitor
Terms & Conditions - Privacy Policy