Proud Kagay-anon in the US Open Golf Tourney
Article by: Hannah Victoria Wabe
ONE of the very few Pinoy kids qualified to tee off for our country in the upcoming US Kids Golf World in Pinehurst, North Carolina is a proud Kagay-anon.
Kiara Therese Montebon, who made the cut to play for the 12-year-old girls division, is the only Pinay in her category. Her mother, Ethel, shared that she bested many other competitors at the qualifying rounds in Manila. Kiara herself said that Pinehurst has been her dream since she started training in 2014 at the age of 8.
Kiara narrated excitedly: “The Pinehurst competition is the reason I train daily, before school and after school. This also includes training during holidays, sembreak, and even summer breaks. But it doesn’t feel like work because this is my ultimate dream. I’ve always wanted to join it before I became a teen.”
This prestigious Pinehurst is touted as “the pinnacle event for competitive golfers ages 12 and under”. There are more than 1,500 players competing from more than 50 countries in this one golf tournament.
According to the materials Ethel showed me, Pinehurst is a weeklong experience which includes a Parent/Child Tournament, Team Challenge, Parade of Nations, three rounds of championship play and the Closing Ceremony. Following the three-day championship, the World Van Horn Cup – a one-day best ball tournament featuring the top twelve-year-olds from the United States squaring off against the top twelve-year-olds from the rest of the world – is held on Pinehurst No. 2.
Ethel said her only child really worked hard to make this happen. This proud mom said: “The qualifying round was difficult. You can’t just make it to the Top 1 category, but your score also has to meet the requirement. Thankfully, my daughter was able to make it. I am happy to say that she is the only one! On top of that, she really worked hard in soliciting funds for our trip.”
This is not Kiara’s first time to represent the country. Last July 2017, she competed in three tournaments in the United States—2 in San Diego, California and 1 in Las Vegas, Nevada. She has also attended the US Kids World Golf Competition 2016, held in Johor Baru, Malaysia.
Last May, Kiara participated in the 2018 Luzvimin WGAP Ladies Tournament held in Splendido Golf in Tagaytay where she was part of the Del Monte Team that clinched the top-spot. She also won champion in the Montecillo Division 2 (boys and girls, age 9-12) at the 2017 PAL JGFP Interclub Junior Golf, Southwoods, Cavite. Aside from that, the 2016 PAL Ladies Tournament where she was the youngest competitor is one of her most memorable tourneys.
Ethel shared: “Ever since Kiara started golf, since day 1, there has been no stopping! She began with golf on weekends at Del Monte Clubhouse, Bukidnon and then I enrolled her in golf sessions at Pueblo Golf. I exposed her early on and let her join a tournament in Alta Vista in Cebu in 2014. She did so poorly compared to the other better jun-golfers. Because of the poor results, she got challenged and told me that she wanted to practice and be better!”
Kiara’s trainer is Elbert Gamolo, who specializes in teaching kids and beginners. His own son, Jelbert, represented the Philippines in the Junior World 2014; and he is now a Philippine Professional Golfer at the age of 20. Kiara sees her coach every single day. On weekdays, practice starts at 5:45 am before school. After class, they go back again to Pueblo at 4pm and practice until before dinner.
Kiara doesn’t rest even on weekends, driving with her mom to Del Monte to practice there as well. She dreams of joining PGA-Professional Golf Association and LPGA-Ladies Professional Golf Association. These associations are in the US and accept all nationalities who qualify based on skills and merit. Kiara said: “I am a fan of Michelle Wie and Lydia Ko. They’re golf celebrities, international superstars, and champions. I aspire to get US golf scholarships just like my idols.”
This kid’s dedication to the sport is truly admirable considering she is able to balance everything with school. Ethel emphasized that golf does not interfere with her daughter’s studies at all. In fact, she noted that Kiara still manages to get good grades, and she still has time for other stuff like dance, piano, voice, and guitar. Kiara herself confirmed, “With golf, I do not only enjoy the sport, but I also learned to be more focused. Not just in competition, but in school too. It has really helped me with many things.”
Kiara is leaving the country along with her mom on July 23 and we wish them nothing but the best. She is already a winner for the amazing amount of perseverance she has shown. At such a young age, she has learned the value of hard work, discipline, patience, commitment, and time management. On top of that, she serves as an inspiration to many kids because she is already living her dream at such a young age. Some people only dream of success, whereas Kiara wakes up and works relentlessly for it.