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Peyton will play in U.S. Kids Golf World Championships

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By Tommie Kendall

Beginning with her first putter at the age of one, Mackenzie Peyton has always been around the game of golf. She received the putter from her grandfather, Willie Peyton, on her first birthday, was a regular on the greens by the age of two, and was playing a full nine holes by the age of five. Now, at the ripe old age of 11, Peyton already has played three years on Henry County High School girls’ golf team and, as an upcoming sixth grader, she’s making a name for herself against others her age from around the country. Peyton played three tournaments in the Aquafina Junior Series, came in second in her flight at the Henry County Country Club Ladies Invitational, and recently won a U.S. Kids World Qualifier in Indiana, which qualified her for the U.S. Kids Golf World Championship later this month. “Willie had her a custom-made putter to fit her size on her first birthday, and she’s been on the course ever since,” said Kathy Peyton, Mackenzie’s grandmother and the high school’s coach. “Really, she’s always been around it.” And as Peyton gets older, her golf game continues to soar. “From last year, she’s already improved her game,” Kathy said. “She’s worked on her short game and got a new driver, so she’s getting a lot more distance. She’s gone from driving a ball around 120 yards to 180, which makes a big difference. Also, she’s been out there working on chipping and putting. She’s putting in the work.” Last fall, the high school team won the North Central Kentucky Conference for the fourth straight year, went undefeated in match play, broke two school records for nine and 18 holes, and returns the top five golfers who hope to make a run at an elusive top-two finish at the regional meet to qualify for the state tournament for the first time in school history. Last year, they finished tied for fifth. Meanwhile, fifth grader Peyton was the No. 7 golfer on one of the more impressive programs at HCHS. And based on her off-season work, she should give the team a big push this upcoming season. In the Aquafina Junior Series, which were held at golf courses around the state in the spring, Peyton finished fourth twice with scores of 49 and 54, and sixth once with a score of 58. She was competing in the 13-and-under girls’ division in Lexington, Louisville and Bardstown. She followed that with an impressive showing in her first Henry County Country Club Ladies Invitational outing, shooting a personal-best 94 on the 18-hole course for second in her flight. Then, in the middle of June, Peyton came away in the clutch when it mattered the most, shooting a 43 at the U.S. Kids World Qualifier in Indiana. The Qualifiers were held in May and June all around the country for boys and girls aged 5 to 12, which gave kids a chance to play against others their age on courses set up for age-appropriate play. The first-place winner in each age group — if they meet the scoring requirement — were invited to compete in the U.S. Kids Golf World Championship. Peyton finished first in her age group and shot four strokes under the requirement of 47 to grab a spot. Unlike the Aquafina Junior Series, and high school matches, the golfers were allowed a caddie in the U.S. Kids. Peyton went with her grandfather Willie — who’s been with her every step of the way since he first bought her a putter 10 years ago. The U.S. Kids Golf World Championship will be held July 30 through Aug. 2 at Whispering Pine Golf Course in North Carolina. E-mail us about this story at sports@hclocal.com.