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At home on the turf

Golf 365 days a year

CLACKAMAS - Clackamas is fast gaining a reputation for producing some pretty good young golfers.

Earlier this year, Tyler Simpson, a 2005 graduate of Clackamas High School, placed second at the 2011 Oregon Golf Association Amateur Championships, held at Waverley Country Club.

And on July 1, Happy Valley 10-year-old Samuel Pyon, who will be a fifth grader at Happy Valley Elementary School in the fall, won the Pee Wee Boys Division (ages 8-11) of the Oregon Junior Amateur, held at Reames Golf and Country Club in Klamath Falls.

Pyon also won the Pee Wee Boys Division of this year's Peter Jacobsen Junior Challenge, with a 4-over-par 76 (40, 36) at Emerald Valley Golf Course in Creswell.

A year ago another Happy Valley youth, Angela Lu, won the Pee Wee Girls Division of the Oregon Junior Amateur. She also won at the 2010 Peter Jacobsen tournament.

Pyon's success is no accident. Like his schoolmate Angela, he practices - a lot.

'I practice every day [the year round],' Samuel says. 'Except for thunderstorms and snow. And then I go to the driving range.'

'Last year he didn't miss a day,' said Samuel's mom, Jennifer Pyon. '365 days. Four hours a day after school and at least eight hours on weekends.'

Between Northwest Juniors in the fall, winter and spring, and Oregon Golf Association and U.S. Kids Golf tournaments in the summer, Jennifer says that her son plays in 40 tournaments a year.

In his third year of playing the sport, Samuel Pyon averages 9-over-par for 18 holes.

He's shot even par for 18 holes from the red tees at his home course, Persimmon Country Club in Gresham.

Samuel says he's shot one-under-par for nine holes at Oregon City's Stone Creek Golf Club.

Competing in the Northwest Juniors Tour last winter, he shot a 3-over par 75 for 18 holes at Seattle's Chamber's Bay course, winning first place in competition with boys as old as 12 years of age.

'He was U.S. Kids 'Player of the Year' for 9-year-olds last year,' Jennifer says. 'And he's currently ranked first in the nation for his age on the Junior Scoreboard, which is based on scores for 18-hole tournaments.'

During a recent round of golf with his dad, Jay Pyon, at Persimmon, Samuel was asked if he could beat his father in golf.

His response: 'I beat my dad, but not my grandpa.'

Pyon's grandpa, Tie Kang, is his coach.

'[My grandpa's] pretty strict, but he teaches me a lot of things I don't know,' Samuel says, 'Like how to control my speed…. My putting is awful, but I'm getting better.'

Samuel's favorite club is his driver.

'I can hit it 200, 210 [yards],' the Happy Valley 10-year-old says.

Samuel Pyon says he prefers match play over stroke play.

'I like match play better because in match play if [my opponent] got par and I got double bogey, he's only up one,' said Samuel. 'In stroke play, I'd be down two.'

Commenting on his recent win at the Oregon Junior Amateur, Samuel said, 'I was surprised I won it. I thought I wouldn't win. I almost gave up, because I got sick.'

The final round of the four-day match-play tournament ended early, with Samuel putting the tournament out of reach for his opponent after 16 holes.

Asked what he likes about golf, Samuel says, 'You get to compete with people, you get to meet new people, and it's fun!'

Asked if he would someday like to become a professional golfer, Samuel Pyon responds, 'Yes. Because there's nothing else I'm good at.'