Haymaker junior to follow in footsteps of golfing greats
For Steamboat Pilot & Today
STEAMBOAT SPRINGS — Michael DiNapoli, an 11-year-old junior golfer whose home course is Haymaker Golf Course, is about to follow in the footsteps of Tiger Woods and Ernie Els.
Michael earned a spot in The Optimist International Junior Golf Championship, which will be played July 17 to 22 at the PGA National Resort and Spa in Florida. The Steamboat golfer will be joined by 660 juniors from 30 nations, all competing to win the title, as Woods and Els once did.
In May, Michael was in Boulder for a soccer game, when his dad Mike and golf coach Andrew Donner, director of instruction at Haymaker, suggested Michael enter a golf tournament the following day. The Junior Golf Alliance of Colorado was staging a qualifier for the Optimist event at Aurora Hills Golf Course.
It was only Michael’s third-ever tournament, and the intention was to simply give him more exposure to competitive play. He tied for fourth place, which earned a spot in the 12 to 13 age bracket, along with $500 toward the $3,000 it will cost to make the trip.
“It’s an amazing opportunity,” said Donner, who has been helping the DiNapolises plan and raise funds for the trip.
“I’m nervous and excited at the same time,” said DiNapoli, who can be found on the Haymaker practice range four days a week, fine tuning his skills.
He is hoping his favorite club — the putter – will not let him down.
“Everything happens on the green,” he said.
He will be one of the youngest players in his division, due to when his birthday falls in July, and he’ll play against competitors hailing from Argentina to Thailand.
No doubt this humble, young golfer will embrace the challenge with his trademark smile and sportsmanship.
“I am so grateful to my Dad for getting me into golf,” said Michael, who started playing in his backyard at age 3. “He’s my favorite person to play with, and I am thankful to Coach Andrew.”
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