Notebook: Bandon looper Kennon brings caddie mindset to Western
29 Jul 2019
by Julie Williams of AmateurGolf.com

see also: Western Amateur Championship, Moraine Country Club

Scotty Kennon (right) (WGA/Twitter photo)
Scotty Kennon (right) (WGA/Twitter photo)

All men turn to Lost Boys upon arrival at Bandon Dunes Golf Resort. It’s a golf playground with endless views. Scotty Kennon knows it intimately – he’s as close as you can get to an actual Bandon Lost Boy.

Kennon, 16, “has been playing golf my entire life, since I could walk.” That said, much of his childhood has been spent at Bandon. There aren’t a lot of local kids on the courses and practice facilities there, so the Kennon clan ran in their own circle. Scotty’s older brother Jackson, 18, and younger sister Cassie, 13, also play. Scotty and Jackscon also both work as caddies at the resort.

As for Cassie, “she’s a little superstar golfer,” Scotty said proudly. Cassie traveled to Augusta National in 2018 for the Drive, Chip and Putt national finals.

Jackson will attend the University of Oregon as an Evans Scholar, a program that provides a tuition and housing scholarship for caddies, in the fall. The idea is that Scotty will take the same path at a school of his choice. This was the idea their father Armando had when he introduced his sons to the caddie business. Armando grew up in the game, served in the U.S. Navy then earned his PGA certification. He worked as an assistant professional at a golf course in Utah during the summers and as a snowboard instructor during the winters.

The Kennons relocated to Bandon, Ore., in 2007, and Armando worked first as an assistant pro at Bandon Trails before eventually becoming a caddie in 2010.

“He learned about the Evans scholarship and thought that would be a really good thing for us kids to do. As soon we were old enough that’s what we started doing,” Scotty explained.

Scotty watched Jackson learn the caddie ropes and was 14 when he first started learning about caddying, too. He got unofficial training from his dad before training with the resort. Scotty estimates that he and Jackson are among 10 or 15 teenagers who caddie at Bandon Dunes.

Scotty takes a caddie mindset to the golf course, and as he ticks off how that kind of thinking affects him on the golf course – play smart, limit your mistakes and miss in the right places – it’s easy to see why the 16-year-old was near the top of the leaderboard at the Western Junior last month. Courtesy of his runner-up finish in his Western Junior debut, Kennon earned a return trip to the Midwest this week for the Western Amateur, one of the most prestigious and competitive events in amateur golf. Notably, the Western Golf Association also sponsors the Evans scholarship program.

“It’s definitely the biggest one I’ve ever gotten into. I’m really excited to play and get to meet a lot of new people,” said Kennon, who also played the 2017 U.S. Junior but struggled that week with food poisoning. Temperatures soared over 100 that week at Flint Hills National Golf Club in Andover, Kan., and by the end of the ordeal, Kennon had dropped 15 pounds.

At the Western Junior, played June 17-20 at Rich Harvest Farms in Sugar Grove, Illinois, Piercen Hunt ran away with a seven-shot victory. Still, Kennon played his game, and applied a bit of late pressure with a chip-in birdie at No. 17 and a final-round 68.

“I felt like for the way my game was that week, I was really proud of the way that I played and the way that we handled our way around the course even when we didn’t have quite our best stuff,” he said. The “we” includes Armando, who caddied for him that week.

Kennon’s summer is usually light on competition because that’s the time he spends in his native Oregon. On a normal day, he will make himself available for a “morning loop,” which usually happens between 7 a.m. and noon. After lunch in the caddie shack, he’ll walk to Bandon’s practice center and begin practicing around 2 p.m. He’ll stay at the resort until the sun goes down, or his dad or brother get off work to take him home.

“As far as courses, I like Bandon Trails the most,” he said of when he gets to play. “I feel like Old Mac, when it’s windy, offers the biggest challenge.”

For his age, Kennon’s caddie background also gives him an advantage in endurance. He regularly walks 36 holes. Endurance factors into the Western Amateur in a big way. After two 18-hole days to start the tournament, the last three days of the event are double-round days. The collegians in the field will have experience with that considering that college tournaments often feature one 36-hole day. Still, Kennon is always careful to pace himself during a round – walk slowly and catch his breath, and not waste energy getting mad at his mistakes.

At the end of the summer, Kennon will return to IMG Academy in Bradenton, Fla. This will be his second year there. Kennon thinks the best tournament golf can be found in the south and he loved every minute of his first year at IMG. Even before Kennon enrolled there, his schooling has been non-traditional. He first began online studies in the third grade, went back to a classroom for a semester as a fifth grader, then resumed online schooling.

“It just made it really convenient and easy to practice during the schoolyear,” Kennon said.

Kennon’s immediate goal is to become the No. 1 player in junior golf before he graduates in 2021. According to Golfweek’s Junior Rankings, he’s currently No. 46 in the country.

If there’s a recipe for success – a dream recipe, even – one has to think Kennon is living it.

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WALKER CUP PODCAST: The road to the Walker Cup has officially begun, especially now that three members of the 10-man U.S. squad have been selected. Cole Hammer, Akshay Bhatia and Stewart Hagestad, the top 3 Americans in the World Amateur Golf Rankings, got their magic phone call last week.

As the Sept. 7-8 matches at Royal Liverpool approach (and the #roadtohoylake continues), the Back of the Range Podcast is featuring interviews with men on the hopeful list, plus men already on the team (see threesome above). Be sure to tune in and listen to the top amateurs in the game talk about chasing one of the most coveted team experiences in amateur golf.

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Western Amateur, Point O’Woods G&CCC, Benton Harbor, Mich., July 30-Aug. 3
The skinny: Behind the U.S. Amateur, this is arguably the most coveted amateur title in golf. Also one of the hardest two earn. The winner must play three double-round days to earn the trophy. For pairings and tee times and players to watch, click here.

Junior PGA Championship, Keney Park GC, Hartford, Ct., July 30-Aug. 2
The skinny: Without Akshay Bhatia back to defend his title this year, a new player will host the trophy for the first time since 2016. Among the top-ranked players in the field are Canon Claycomb, a 2018 U.S. Junior Ryder Cup Team Member; Tommy Morrison, the No. 1 ranked boys player for the Class of 2023; and Luke Clanton, No. 1 in the class of 2022.

Ladies National Golf Association Amateur, The Golf Club of Tennessee, Kingston Springs, Tenn., July 29-Aug. 1
The skinny: Formerly called the Women’s Trans-National Amateur, this event at last year’s U.S. Women’s Amateur venue provides an excellent tune-up for this year’s U.S. Women’s Amateur, to be played in a week. It’s this week’s major women’s amateur event.

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QUOTE OF THE WEEK: USGA learning curve

For junior golfers, sometimes this whole match play thing is a little bit new. The night before Kelly Xu took on Erica Shepherd, he 2017 U.S. Girls’ Junior champ, in the Round of 64, she had to do a bit of research.

“I had to learn about match play by Googling it last night,” said Xu, who had never played the format before. “I definitely like playing it more than stroke play.”

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