He just turned nine and averages 230 yards off the tee, usually out-driving players two and three years older on the junior golf tours.
Ryan Vest is 4-foot-5, 80 pounds and getting bigger, but he’s hardly growing up too fast. His favourite TV show is SpongeBob Squarepants.
Talk golf with the kid for a few moments and you may think he’s a freelancer for Golf Digest. Vest can rattle off PGA names and stats like he’s been following the game for decades. Been that way since he was four.
He used to admire Adam Scott – who shares the same July 16 birthday – and Phil Mickelson, but now has a new hero on the links.
“I really like Jordan Spieth,” said Vest, soon to be a Grade 4 Montessori student at Silver Star Elementary. “I’m putting like him so I’m looking at the hole.”
Vest produced a 2-over 39-35-74 to share third place with Jose Raul Carrillo of Mexico at the U.S. Kids Golf Invitational last October in St. Lucie, Fla.
Sihan Sandhu of Virginia was first at 37-29-66, while Asher Joseph of Florida placed second in the Under 8 Division.
Vest received Green Status by finishing third and gets an automatic invitation back to this year’s tourney, July 30-Aug. 1 at Pinehurst, N.C. It will be his fourth U.S. Kids experience.
“I’m excited to be playing the No. 1 course because we stayed near there last year and I hit some shots on No. 1. There were lots of pine cones to hit too.”
Vest says he is not intimidated by the older and stronger kids in the Bantam category of the Maple Leaf Junior Tour. He was runner-up in the Under 12 grouping with 84-77 at The Harvest in Kelowna in one Maple Leaf stop.
“I’m not a mini midget,” he deadpanned. “I was nervous at first, but I just go out and play the game like I can and do my best.”
Vest says he’s “so, so” off the tees and “decent” on the fairways thus far this summer. He has “greened” the par-4, 236-yard sixth hole at the Ridge Course, while also reaching the par-4, 208-yard 16th on the same Predator track, from the yellow tees.
And the 10th hole at Spallumcheen, where you can carry water for better yardage, Vest can also do that as well.
“What a heck of a par save, hey dad?” said Vest, going off course in the interview to discuss how he hit his approach shot to within a foot on No. 8 in a recent round at Spall with his father, Jeff.
Vest has played more than 50 rounds this season and has a collection of 200 balls. After a pizza lunch, he marked his ninth birthday by carding a smooth 78 at Predator Ridge, his main sponsor.
He enjoys pick-up soccer and floor hockey when not golfing, and claims he can beat his dad at squash. He hits a Nike Vapor driver and uses U.S. Kids TS-54 irons.
Pinehurst is famous for its wide fairways, forest-like trees and Bermuda grass. Vest will get in two practice rounds and have his dad caddying. Mom Laurie will handle nutrition and curfew.
“I’m just going to say to myself, ‘I’m going to win it,’ and go have fun,” said Ryan.
He took an early-season lesson from former LPGA pro AJ Eathorne at Predator, but says he is pretty much self-taught.
“I mostly coach myself. I listen to my dad and he listens to me.”
Vest won his first golf trophy in March of 2014 with a third at the Desert Shootout at The Wigwam Golf Course in Phoenix. He shot a low-round 38 on the Sunday for the hardware.