Tiger, Tiger, Burning Bright
A very young golfer looks up to the stars.
Thursday, August 29, 2002
Photo by Tom McCartney.
Photo: The Look-at the age of 4, Marina''s Jordan Eugenio already has enviable form and is, as Tiger Woods'' old coach calls it, "an excellent ball striker."
There he is, out on the golf course with his father in his usual Tiger Woods-style red shirt. Alongside him is Tiger''s old coach, Rudy Duran.
While most 4-year-olds are figuring out which shoe goes on which foot and what the first five letters of the alphabet are, Jordan Eugenio is learning how to win golf tournaments and talk to the press. He stands only three feet tall and has trouble carrying his own clubs for more than a few holes, but he''s already been featured on ABC News and Fox Sports Net''s "The Best Damn Sports Show, Period." His early stardom is comparable to that of Tiger Woods, who was featured at age 2 on the "Mike Douglas Show," in which he was shown putting with Bob Hope.
It would appear that his work-and his future-are cut out for him.
Today Jordan''s the star of the show. His father, Johnny Eugenio, has organized a junior golf tournament at Del Monte Golf Course to raise money and awareness for the Special Olympics, in which Jordan''s 10-year-old brother Josh participates annually. All of the golfers get the chance to have their picture taken with Duran and Jordan while they make their way from hole to hole. Jordan is out on the course casually shaking hands with the players, laughing and hobnobbing with the big boys throughout the afternoon. He already looks like a miniature celebrity.
"It all started after I noticed his passion for the game after hitting a couple of shots with a cut-down golf club of mine," says father Johnny Eugenio. "Not long afterwards I was watching a young left-handed golfer featured on ''20/20'' and I knew that Jordan was better than him, and I began to work with Jordan and promote his abilities."
He does have plenty of ability. Jordan recently won first place in the bronze division at the AT&T Junior bronze and silver tournament at Monterey Pines Golf Course. He also placed third at the U.S. Kids Golf Tournament in June at Poppy Ridge Golf Course.
Jordan lives in Marina with his parents, four brothers and sister. Johnny Eugenio only plays golf with him twice a week because he doesn''t want him to get burned out. He wants Jordan to be well-rounded, so he encourages him to play tennis and basketball as well. When he is not on the golf course or serving up the game point in the last set of the match, Jordan attends pre-school at San Carlos Catholic School.
Aside from working with his father, Jordan also takes lessons from Nick Nelson at Bayonet and practices at Salinas Country Club, where Johnny Eugenio is a member.
Eugenio, the district manager for Farmer''s Insurance Co., spends a lot of time developing Jordan''s future. With the help of Jason Companion, a friend of the family, he has already come up with a marketing logo for his son. The logo, a silhouette of Jordan swinging, is displayed prominently on hats, stuffed animals, shirts and sweatshirts. Inspi-ration born of frustration, the idea came about after Eugenio tried unsuccessfully to get Nike to help him market Jordan. He says he uses the proceeds from the clothing to raise money for the Special Olympics and to build a savings account for Jordan''s future.
Plans are in progress to have Jordan begin working with Rudy Duran once a month. Duran, who is currently the Executive Director for the San Luis Obispo Junior Golf Association, worked with Tiger Woods once a week for six years and just released a book called In Every Kid There Lurks a Tiger.
"I believe that golf should be fun for children, and the most important thing when they are first beginning the game is to encourage them," says Duran.
With his father and his new coach sharing the same philosophy about keeping the game fun, Jordan can concentrate on improving and enjoying the game rather than getting bogged down in the technical aspects of the game that often consume young players.
His future so far looks as good as his swing. Junior golf is very competitive and there is a wealth of great junior golfers on the Monterey Peninsula to give him a run for his money.
I ask Rudy Duran how he thinks Jordan''s swing compares to Tiger''s at that age. "I don''t know exactly how he compares to Tiger at that age," Duran says, "because this is the first time I have seen him hit golf balls, but Jordan is obviously an excellent ball striker."
And that''s more than most people were at the age of 4.