Golf phenom Alexa Pano has moved on from role in 'The Short Game'

PARIS, FRANCE - SEPTEMBER 22: Alexa Pano of the United States reacts during a training session prior to the Junior Ryder Cup at Disneyland Paris on September 22, 2018 in Paris, France. (Photo by Aurelien Meunier/Getty Images) Aurelien Meunier/Getty Images

Golf phenom Alexa Pano has moved on from role in 'The Short Game'

Digital Edition

Golf phenom Alexa Pano has moved on from role in 'The Short Game'

By

NORTH PORT, Fla. – Alexa Pano hasn’t seen “The Short Game” documentary since she watched it at a film festival six years ago.

“Yeah, it was a lot of cringe,” said the now 14-year-old Pano, who told the world that she wouldn’t mind her father remarrying, as long as it was to someone like Lady Gaga.

“I had to watch it at the premiere, and then we had a home premiere and then the festival, and I haven’t touched it since. It’s like, you look you back on a moment and you’re like ‘Oh, that’s cute’ and then there’s other times you’re like ‘Why did I do that?’ ”

These days the 5-foot, 10-inch hotshot junior hits it 260 off the tee. She made her LPGA debut as a 13-year-old at last year’s Thornberry Creek Classic and will make her second Symetra Tour start at the inaugural SKYiGOLF Championship March 7-10 at Charlotte Harbor National Golf Club.

Pano, a nine-time world champion, even has her own charity event.

“Before she did that movie she was very shy,” said Alexa’s father Rick. “She wouldn’t talk to adults. It gave her a ton of confidence.”

Last week at the SKYiGOLF Championship media day, a poised Pano sat in front of a room full of people and fielded questions. She will be a top draw at the Bobcat Trail. Rich Smith, the founder and CEO of SKYiGOLF, told the room she could win it.

Asked if her goals at a professional event differ to an amateur or junior competition, Pano didn’t hesitate.

“Definitely not,” she said. “I’m always trying to win. I know it’s tougher competition and it’s less likely, but you always go in with the same goal at an event.”

A homeschooled high school freshman, Pano tops the Class of 2020 and is No. 3 overall in the Golfweek/Sagarin Junior Rankings. After victories at the Dixie Amateur and Ione D. Jones-Doherty and a runner-up at the South Atlantic Amateur this winter, she’s No. 84 in the World Amateur Golf Ranking.

The two-time Drive, Chip and Putt winner heads back to Augusta in April for the inaugural Augusta National Women’s Amateur, where she’ll be the youngest player in the field.

“It’s gonna be one of the most historic moments in women’s golf,” gushed Pano.

A pro start might prove the perfect warm-up for Pano. After playing in last year’s Thornberry Classic, she adjusted her setup on the greens and shot 17 under at the Girls Junior PGA. Pano said she hit 16 and 17 greens in her first two rounds on the LPGA and felt her ball-striking was “equal to the competition.”

It was her putting that needed attention.

Rick points out that her focus is heightened in professional events. It’s different than walking down the fairways at an AJGA tournament, chatting away to friends. He likes the idea of going back and forth.

Alexa and her father talk often about balance. Rick insists that Alexa calls many of the shots. It was her decision to start homeschooling in middle school. Her decision to start early-morning workouts. Her decision to drop out of the Ping Heather Farr Classic in April because she wanted more time at home to prep for U.S. Women’s Open qualifying. They make sure to schedule social activities, too. Last Saturday, she had a movie date with friends.

“Instead of waking up at like 6:30 a.m. for school, I wake up at 4:45 a.m. to go to workouts,” she said of her daily routine. “I practice for almost six hours and then come home, do my schoolwork, and then I guess I have the nighttime to do what I want. It’s a lot different than someone who’s regular.”

There’s no guidebook for raising a child who’s ahead of the curve. How can a parent know what’s too much too soon when raising a prodigy?

“First of all,” Rick began, “you can ask Alexa this. The words ‘prodigy’ and ‘phenom’ does not exist in our vocabulary. The minute you think you’re any good in golf, you’re going straight downhill. I tell her ‘You’re on your way.’ ”

Pano was 11 years old the first time she competed in a professional event – the Yonex Open on the Japan LPGA.

“There were a bunch of little kids that came out to watch me,” she said. “It was super cool.”

To this day, Rick gets letters from golf parents all over the world who have seen “The Short Game” and want his advice. A recent one came from Kenya.

So far, Pano is beating the odds by continuing her early success. But remember that her predecessors set the bar high. Lexi Thompson was 16 years old when she won her first LPGA event in 2011. One year later, Lydia Ko won the CN Canadian Women’s Open at 15.

This could be a monster year for the Netflix star. Dad might need to get a bigger mailbox. Gwk

Latest

More Digital Edition
Home