Luke Parsons, the 8-year-old golf prodigy from Salley, S.C., has won the IMG Junior Golf World Championship in his age division.
He shot a 3-under-par final round Friday in San Diego to best XiHuan Chang of China by one stroke with a total score of 13-under.
“It was like a shootout,” Luke said Saturday in a phone interview as his family was driving back to Salley.
Luke had a four-shot lead going into the final round, but Chang – who “birdied everything” – came back and cut it to one.
“We’re proud, but we’re humble. It’s a lot of hard work,” said Luke’s father, ophthalmologist Tim Parsons. Over 1,200 young players from 56 countries and 42 states qualified and competed in the tournament, he said.
The victory is Parsons’ second on the national or world stage. He won the U.S. Kids Golf World Championship in the boys age 6-and-younger group in 2015.
After that win, signs were erected at either end of Salley’s limits along state Highway 39, proclaiming the town’s pride in the young golfer’s achievements. State Rep. Bill Taylor introduced a legislative resolution honoring Luke and state Sen. Nikki Setzler guided it through the Senate.
Now those signs will need an update.
Luke practices about 4½ hours a day and hits drives about 200 yards with specially made and sized Ping clubs. He plays about 60 tournaments a year.
Golf is a family affair for the Parsons clan. Luke’s older brother, 9-year-old Hunter, has come within one step of qualifying for Augusta National Golf Club’s Drive, Chip and Putt Championship. Dad caddies for Luke and mom, Sueh Parsons, caddies for Hunter and home-schools the boys during their busy tournament schedule.
Luke works a lot with Mike Carlisle, the golf coach at the University of South Carolina Aiken, who suggested the youngster model his game after pro Kevin Kisner.
“I watched him on TV, with his putting, and noticed he was very calm and relaxed,” said Luke, whose chief concern Saturday was thanking both for their roles in his victory. He has never met Kisner, but hopes he will soon.
On the way back Saturday, Luke said he couldn’t wait to get back to Salley.
What would he do when he got there?
“Play golf, maybe fish,” he said.
Reach James Folker at (706) 823-3338 or firstname.lastname@example.org