HOME

TO ADVERTISE

TO SUBSCRIBE

JOBS WITH US

  

The GOLF PRODIGY



Jessy “The Rocket” Huebner

The youngest member of the PGA Golf Club, “The Rocket” has his own golf cart even though he can’t reach the pedals to drive. GREG GARDNER PHOTO

BY GREG GARDNER

The youngest member of the PGA Golf Club in Port St. Lucie is 7-year-old Jessy “The Rocket” Huebner, winner of 62 golf tournaments and current U.S. Kids Golf world champion.

Leaving his home state of Colorado at age 3, Jessy and his family moved to Miami to launch his golf career. After looking around, they settled in PGA Village, where Jessy has access to three championship golf courses and the PGA Learning Center.

“The first time I saw him, I was looking out the window and he was hitting bunker shots and every single one of them was perfect,” said Jaime Fordyce, teaching professional at the PGA Learning Center. “Jessy hits the center of the club. It’s the same swing every time. He proved to me that young kids can hit the ball solid all the time.

“I have adjusted my thinking about juniors and now I insist they have a perfect grip,” he said. “The best part of his game is his pitching. He never misses the shot. He is always there (at the hole). Jessy holds the club like a touring pro, dresses like a professional and is polite. He has a good future.”

After winning the world championship this year at Pinehurst, N.C., Jessy was invited to play this summer in Scotland, but his parents have yet to decide whether he will compete. For the past three years, they have traveled annually to 25-27 state and regional tournaments as “The Rocket” continues to dominate his age group. The nickname was given to him by a Miami golf pro after watching him hit for a few minutes.

In 101 tournaments the junior golf star has won 62, placed second 21 times and scored 36 eagles during his career from age 4 to 7. Many people play a lifetime without making an eagle.

Jessy and Lena Huebner can’t wait until their son turns 8 so he can compete with older kids and be able to use his full swing. He hits the golf ball 165 yards consistently. Courses are shortened for the kids and Jessy has driven more than one par-5 in tournaments, which usually are two, nine-hole rounds over two days.

Several days a week after school, his mother and grandmother coach him as he plays a nine-hole practice round. Lena advises him in Russian, although he speaks perfect English and is taking Spanish at Sun Grove Montessori School where he is a second-grader.

After arriving at the PGA Golf Club, I learned from the cart man that “Mr. Huebner and his party went out at 3:46 on the Wanamaker course.” This is great, I was going to get to meet his father. Upon finding mother, grandmother Galina and the boy in one cart, it was obvious who Mr. Huebner was. The golf cart says “The Rocket” on the front, but his feet don’t reach the pedals.

With his powerful, straight drives, Jessy easily reaches greens, making birdies and eagles. He three-putted on the last hole to post the lowest score in Jekyll Island Club, SC, history in 2016 with 15 under par for 18 holes. In his first 18-hole, one-day tournament, Jessy had an eagle, winning the 2015 PGA of America Golf Club Tombstone Open on the Ryder Course in Port St. Lucie.

The youngster has the quiet intensity and looks of a young Jordan Spieth, his favorite golfer on the tour and former No. 1 golfer in the world. Jessy confidently strides down the hill to his ball lying behind a bunker, with a brutal 20-foot slope to the green and the pin just 12 feet from the top of the bunker. He hits a medium pitch (flop) shot, which barely clears the bunker, almost rolls in and comes to rest less than 4 feet behind the hole. It is a shot any pro golfer would be happy with.

On the next hole, Jessy hits a stiff 130-yard shot at the flag that clears an elevated bunker and rolls just off the back of the green. “I didn’t expect to hit it so well,” he said. “I usually don’t hit it that far.”

On this particular day, the trio was training for the 35th Annual Doral Publix Junior Golf Classic in Miami, which he hoped to win for a record third time. In his last appearance at the Doral Publix Classic in the age 7 and under division in December 2016, Jessy made an eagle and was three strokes back for the first nine holes, but finished in second place at three under the second nine.

During his practice round, his mother, who has written down the lengths of the holes he will play in the tournament, tees up the ball so he can get a feel for those distances he will be playing in the tournament. Using a range finder, his mother tells him which club to use and he complies. Sometimes she has him hit a second ball and play them both, constantly giving him encouragement and instruction in Russian. If it is a good shot, they move on and play it. He putts once or twice until he hits a good putt.

Once a week coach/caddie Ed “Ned” Keiser comes from Miami to work with Jessy on his swing and other parts of his game. It was a “hiccup that became a godsend,” said Keiser when it was arranged for him to come to Port St. Lucie for two to four hours of instruction instead of going to Miami once or twice a week for one to two hours.

“They have been very generous to me,” Keiser said. “His father is a super person, but he doesn’t know golf. His mother could be an instructor. She catches things and I say, ‘You know, lady, you are right.’ And grandma, too. ”

Keiser says there can be a downside to parents caddying, saying he has heard parents say some of the worst things to their children during tournaments.

“I started as his swing coach and became his caddie,” said Keiser, who has coached other juniors who have gone on to play on the PGA Tour. “It’s awesome. Jessy is something special. We have a trust level like no other. Thirty years of experience making decisions for a 7-year-old, but he trusts me.”

That trust was not always the case. One day Jessy announced he was going to use the low left putting grip used by Spieth and other young golfers on the tour. Almost all right-handed golfers have their left hand on top in their grip instead of the bottom. “He showed up one day and I tried to caution him against it,” Keiser said. “Putting is all feel, so you have to be comfortable. It was working so if it isn’t broken don’t fix it.”

At the 2016 world championship, Jessy was waiting for the people on the green to leave when the rules official came over to ask him to hit. Keiser backed him away and Jessy then hit the ball 170 yards up hill to four feet from the pin. “The rules guy couldn’t believe he hit it that far,” Keiser said.

At first, Jessy used custom clubs made by Keiser. Now he uses junior clubs costing $1,000 a set. “When he turned 6, he was tall enough,” Keiser said. “He is that much stronger and his swing speed is faster than the other kids. Add accuracy and you can’t stop him. It is a fresh start every week. Jessy comes out of the box like Secretariat. And if he has a problem later, he always has a big enough lead.

“We have kept videos of his swing in case it goes off track. I wouldn’t be surprised if he is playing in the qualifiers as a teenager. As long as Jessy is happy as a person, he should go all the way pretty quick.”

Golf isn’t everything in the boy’s life or the only area in which he excels. Jessy takes a piano lesson once a week and practices around dinnertime. He can play Beethoven and Jingle Bells among other pieces.

Anything with hand-eye coordination such as ping pong, pool and tennis comes easily to him. Jessy plays tennis once a week and his parents originally thought he might have a future in the game.

To keep their son healthy, certain contact sports are off limits such as football, snowboarding and skateboarding. “He skis like a little champ with no fear and no poles,” said Huebner, who added they are going to have to reconsider allowing him to enjoy the sport he has practiced since he could walk. “We were just in Breckenridge and his mother and grandmother couldn’t keep up with him. He had a couple of falls, but he didn’t hurt himself.

“We had no plans to come here (PGA Village), but here we are,” said the elder Huebner, who has a Ph.D. and is a consultant in research and health care. “I don’t play golf and neither does my wife. Jessy is the member.

“Golf is ingrained in him. Jessy thrives on it. He talks it. He feels it,” Huebner said.



JESSY HUEBNER
Age: 7
Hometown: Port St. Lucie
Education: Second grade, Sun Grove Montessori School
Interests: Tennis, snow skiing, piano, reading in Russian and English
For more information: Go to www.jessyhuebner.simplesite.com