Playing against the best young golfers from around the world, Henry County Middle School seventh-grader MacKenzie Peyton finished 65th at the US Kids Golf World Championship, improving from her 85th-place outing in the same event last August.
Peyton, playing in the Girls’ 12 Division, shot a 91, 90, 84 on consecutive days at the famous Pinehurst Golf Course in North Carolina last week. To qualify for the US Kids World Championship, golfers had to win a qualifying event — which were held all over the world — and meet a pre-determined standard. Peyton also qualified last summer, placing 85th in the Girls’ 11 Division at the World Championship.
Peyton arrived at Pinehurst last Tuesday, played a practice round on Wednesday, walked in a parade of the countries on Wednesday night with the United States going last, and played 18 holes on Thursday, Friday and Saturday. During the three days, she was paired with players from Texas, Georgia, Alaska, Colombia, Mexico and the Philippines. There were more than 1,300 total players between 13 divisions, including six from Kentucky.
“It was an exciting trip,” said Kathy Peyton, the Henry County High School girls’ golf coach and MacKenzie’s grandmother. “She was able to play with so many players from all over. That’s what is so exciting about it. It’s just interesting to play with them and they’re all so competitive.”
MacKenzie Peyton shot a 91 on the practice round on Wednesday, then equalled that score on the first day of competition on Thursday. Out of the 18 holes, she landed in seven sand traps, shot three sevens and hit one out of bounds. She came back on Friday to shoot a 90, which included a nine on one hole. It was a tough course.
“There wasn’t a lot of water but there were a lot of sand traps and trees,” Kathy Peyton said. “She didn’t play as well as she wanted the first two days, maybe it was just the excitement of being there. She had a lot of problems with the sand traps. She hit the ball really well out of them, but you just can’t hit your normal shots like that.”
On Saturday, the final day, MacKenzie Peyton finished with a 84 for her best outing during the trip. The top golfer in the Girls’ 12 Division, Navarro Marijosse from Mexico, shot 68-66-68 for a 202 and a four-stroke win. Ha Cindy from New Jersey was second at 206, and Superal Princess from the Philippines was third at 217. Marijosse shot a 66 on the second day and Cindy shot a 66 on the third day for the top one-day scores from the group.
At the US Kids Golf World Championship, the players are split into 13 divisions: 6-and-younger, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11 and 12 for boys, and 7-and-under, 8, 9, 10, 11 and 12 for girls. The younger the age group, the shorter the yardage.
Peyton qualified for the tournament based on her winning a qualifying event at the Hidden Creek Golf Course in Indiana last month. She had to win her age group and shoot a 42 for nine holes to advance — she easily won by 18 strokes with a 40. She tried to qualify at a qualifying event at the Henry County Country Club a couple of weeks earlier, but finished second with a 46.
In her two years playing in the US Kids Golf World Championship, Peyton finished 85th and 65th. This was her final year of eligiblity. Next year, she will either try to play in the next age group up for US Kids Golf, or play in tournaments around Kentucky.
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