By the precocious standards of today’s golf prodigies, 8-year-old Allan Kournikova is a latecomer. He first picked up a club at the age of 18 months (Tiger Woods started a year earlier in life).
But it seems he’s making up for lost time.
The younger brother of tennis pro-cum-pinup model Anna Kournikova [right], Allan last week won his age group at the US Kids Golf European Championship at Longniddry Golf Club in Gullane, Scotland, shooting seven-under over the course of three nine-hole rounds.
Allan, who lives in Palm Beach, Fla., collects golf trophies the way some kids collect Legos.
This was his second win at the US Kids. Last year, he captured the 7-and-under division.
Of course, youthful triumphs are no guarantee of future success. Sometimes, in fact, they seem to work against a player, like winning the par-three contest at Augusta.
Burnout is a worry. So are outsize expectations, and the urge to push a kid too far, too fast.
Valerie LaPapa, a PGA professional who has worked with Allan, is aware of that.
“He truly loves to play the game,” she told The Palm Beach Daily News in 2011. “For such a young little boy, he asks a lot of questions, which shows he loves what he is doing. That’s what sets him out from others. We also make it a lot of fun so he doesn’t get burnt out.”
Still, this is golf in the modern era. There are brands to be built. There is money to be made.
And there are signs that that machinery is kicking into gear. A recent article on PGA.com mentioned Allan in the same breath as Jessica Korda and Ivan Lendl’s three daughters: all talented golfers from prominent tennis families.
The article also alluded to a new documentary, “The Short Game,” which turns a lens on the world’s top child golfers, Allan among them. A preview for the movie, which won the Audience Award at the SXSW Film Festival in March, follows Allan through his morning exercise program. We see him turning over tires, reeling off squats, working on his core. The snippet also captures him at elementary school, conducting a science experiment in his second grade class room.
“I love second grade,” Allan tells the camera. “I like the number two but I really love the number one. It’s the number I want to be in my golf career.”
No pressure, of course.
Photo: Anna Kournakova in December 2012 (Getty Images)