January 12, 2010

Parting Shot

Such a year it has been for Kyle Lograsso, America's youngest golf celebrity.

Such a year it has been for Kyle Lograsso, America's youngest golf celebrity.

Tiger Woods wrote to him. He helicoptered with Greg Norman. He teed it up on the range next to K.J. Choi, Bubba Watson and Camilo Villegas. He has done his Jim Furyk swing impression, accepted trophies named for Bruce Edwards and Peggy Kirk Bell, and appeared on the Ellen DeGeneres television show.

As honorary chairman of Dream Day at the 2008 FBR Open in Scottsdale, Lograsso entertained 300 young people from The First Tee program. The crowd included girls so insistent on learning his phone number that his father interceded.

"Girls, girls," said Jeff Lograsso. "He's 5 years old."

Kyle's story, told in a Golf Digest feature ("Courage of a Tiger," May 2007), is a little about golf and a lot about a child's passion. He was 2 when diagnosed with cancerous tumors in his eyes. Chemotherapy and radiation saved his right eye; the left was removed surgically and replaced with a prosthetic. There has been no recurrence of the retinoblastoma, which has a survival rate of 95 percent.

Kyle's interest in golf predated the cancer. Neither his father, a Marine staff sergeant, nor his mother, Regina, played the game. But Kyle, in diapers, watched the Golf Channel and soon swung imaginary clubs. After his cancer treatments, Kyle returned to golf.

Last summer, three months past his fifth birthday, he was the youngest of nearly 1,200 players in the U.S. Kids Golf World Championships. In December at the Shark Shootout, Norman flew Kyle, his parents and his sister Kaley along the Florida coast.

At the FBR Open, tour player Daniel Chopra thought he'd won a closest-to-the-hole chipping contest -- until Kyle rolled one in from 25 feet.

So, Kyle, which was better, all the Scottsdale hoopla or the helicopter ride with Greg Norman? "Both were better," our youngest diplomat said.