Columbia teen qualifies for championship golf competition.

Saturday, June 28, 2008 | 7:58 p.m. CDT; updated 4:24 p.m. CDT, Tuesday, July 22, 2008

COLUMBIA — At 7:30 a.m. Tyler Kolb settled into his putting stance. He eyed the hole, swung the club and tapped the ball. It rolled passed the hole. He was nervous. He kept missing. Kolb needed to step up his game for the tournament in an hour.

“I’m worried about my putting because I’m not doing so well, I did OK yesterday, though,” Kolb said.

Kolb, 14, has been playing golf seriously since he was 11. On June 19, he played in a Gateway PGA tournament on the A.L. Gustin Golf Course, one of many tournaments he played in this summer.

He started to relax as his friends came over to putt at the same hole. They talked casually about the tournaments they recently played.

“You win all the time, you’re just a little winner,” Kolb told his friend Wilson Sunvold, who had won a tournament the day before.

He was not jealous, however, because he had also recently won a tournament.

On June 9, Kolb played in the Callaway World Junior Qualifier at Normandie Golf Club in St. Louis.

“I was pretty nervous because I played in a tournament last year where kids were shooting 76 and lower,” Kolb said. “I got really nervous during the last holes, but I shot a 79 and won the tournament.”

The victory qualified him to play in the Callaway Junior World Championship on July 13-17 at Torrey Pines Golf Course in San Diego, the same course Tiger Woods won the U.S. Open on earlier this month.

“I am ecstatic about making the trip out there,” Kolb said. “I’m going to be playing against the best 14-and-younger kids, and I plan to play my best.”

To ensure he always plays his best, Kolb dedicates a lot of time to golf. He practices almost every day at the Country Club of Missouri.

“I play every day except Monday because that’s when the country clubs are closed,” Kolb said. “I get up in the morning and don’t come home until my mom calls me for dinner.”

He typically goes to the driving range for an hour and then plays the front nine. If he plays well, he goes on to play the back nine. If he plays poorly, he goes back to the range to practice some more and then will redo the front nine.

Kolb says his mother Rebecca Highland and his grandfather Larry Gross helped him develop his love of golf.

“My mother has been playing for a while, but my grandpa has been my mentor for the last year and a half,” Kolb said.

Gross said he started taking his grandson golfing with him because he cares a lot for the sport himself and likes to see Kolb enjoy it.

“He has unlimited potential to be a good golfer,” Gross said. “If he stays serious about it, I can see him playing in college and maybe beyond that.”

Kolb’s mom and grandfather plan to accompany him to San Diego. Gross said he was the second-happiest person apart from Kolb to learn Kolb was eligible to play in the tournament.

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