Future Stars

13-year-old inspired by the late Kobe Bryant sinks clutch putt in playoff to advance to U.S. Open Final Qualifying

At 13 years old, just teeing it up in a U.S. Open local qualifier and finishing the round is a wildly impressive feat. Shooting an even-par 72, then sinking a clutch 12-footer in a playoff to advance, is the stuff of legend.

That's exactly what Burbank, Ca.'s Jaden Soong did on Monday at Brentwood Country Club, where five players advanced to the Final Qualifying Stage for the 123rd U.S. Open, which is set to be held June 15-18 in Soong's home state at Los Angeles Country Club. Getting into that field will be a borderline impssible task for this seventh-grader (!!), but considering how he held up on Monday, this kid might have the game and the mental fortitude to do it. Check out the video of him holing a must-make 12-footer to secure one of the five spots up for grabs:

As Mirjam Swanson of The Orange County Register first reported, this was Soong's first-ever try in a U.S. Open local qualifier, and he (obviously) skipped school for it. Swanson also writes that a five-year-old video message from the late great Kobe Bryant is still inspiring Soong to this day, to the point where he actually rewatched it before Monday's round. Safe to say, it worked. 

The video message was captured in 2018 by Jaden's father, Chris, who was attending a corporate event to celebrate a successful investment in the sports drink BodyArmor when he happened to run into the five-time NBA champion. Bryant, unsurprisingly, was not only gracious with his time but he delivered a message we can all get behind, and one Jaden is living by:

"Hey, Jaden, you've got to practice," Bryant says at the beginning of the video. "Serena Williams hates practicing, but she hates losing more. 

"If you want to be great," he continues, "if you want to learn what excellence feels like, you have to put in the work. There's no other way to do it. There's no secret formula, no magic wand. The more you do it, the better you get." 

Words to live by, literally in Jaden's case. The Mamba is not a bad guy to continue to draw inspiration from, and it's clearly working for Jaden. How good is this golf swing?

All that practice is paying off. Even if Soong doesn't make it to LACC, we highly doubt this is the last we hear from this rising star.