Whitton, 13, adds series title to list of accolades

by Chris Goltermann

A13-year-old boy can fill his free time with an endless variety of activities, some productive, others not nearly as much. More often than not, Carson Whitton spends as much of his on the golf course. And from his results over the past year, they've been quite worthwhile.

Now if only this winter would hurry up and get to next spring already.

'I hate that it gets dark so early, because I can't get out there as much now,' said Whitton, who can be found regularly on the course at Canongate-on-White Oak during the year. 'I'd rather be playing golf than anything else.'

That fervor has produced quite a year in competition for U.S. Kids Golf beginning this past February with his first hole-in-one on a 169-yard par-3 during its Desert Shootout tournament in Arizona.

Most recently, The Lee Middle School eighth grader recently clinched a championship in the 13 year-old boys division of the organization's Atlanta Fall Series, winning four of its nine events including a season-low round of 74 at Orchard Hills Golf Course on Nov. 2.

Along with the series title, Whitton now has earned an exemption for a return trip to the U.S. Kids European Championship next summer, having played in his first event in Scotland this past May as one of just four Americans out of 50 players in his division.

'My goal was to get back to Scotland this year,' he said. 'I didn't start the season well, and had a couple of bad scores. But that's OK. I played consistent.'

For Whitton, taking good days with the bad has been both a balancing act and a learning experience, one that hopes to make him a better player while on the cusp of reaching both the varsity level in high school and taking the next step to a highly competitive 14-17 age group.

Along with his 74 at Orchard Hills this fall, which included a 34 on the back nine in a strong finish, Whitton won fall series events during back-to-back weeks at Newnan Country Club and at Mystery Valley in Lithonia with rounds of 78 and 77 respectively.

The tournament at NCC, which was a makeup of a rained out event, trumped the Georgia-LSU football game for Whitton, a diehard Bulldogs fan, who hated to miss out on seeing a victory in Athens.'I'm glad I stayed,' he said. 'I wouldn't have won the season.'

His only finish outside the top-two came with an 87 in the series opener only to bounce back immediately for the win at NCC while averaging a score of 78.7 over his final eight tournaments.

'I'll take it,' said Whitton, who is next headed to a U.S. Kids Regional event the weekend of Dec 20-22 at PGA National in West Palm Beach, Fla.

Parents Darrell and Rhonda rarely have to worry about where their son is, or his motivation toward the game.

'The thing about Carson is we take him to the golf course and we drop him off and he plays and he practices,' said Darrell, whose face often is recognized with his auto repair business, Crossroads Automotive. 'I used to be Darrell Whitton. Now I'm Carson's dad.'

Whether it's the range, the practice green or the course, Carson admitted he spends one or two hours for at least two to three days a week during peak seasons at the club, mostly looking for 'some friendly competition.'

'It's good for him to be self motivated,' added Rhonda.

It's a long way from where their son started three years ago when Carson was encouraged by his grandfather to pick up a club for the first time. The younger Whitton equally remembers an eye-opening experience during his first youth event at Chateau Elan, one that ranked close to being a bit overwhelmed with his initial rounds overseas in Europe while playing in East Lothian, Scotland from May 28-30.

It included an introduction to the bump-and-run method used to combat balls from either coming up short of the green or getting stuck in the heavy rough.

'That was crazy. They play bump and run there. The first ball I hit on a par three came up about 50 yards short of the green,' Whitton admitted.

His caddy for the U.S. Kids European Championship was a 19-year-old Scottish national who helped provide an introduct ion to handling such hazards.

'He was a 2-handicap, but he was a soccer player,' said Darrell. 'Their physical education over there is golf.'

Carson, who gets course management advice from pros at White Oak as well as swing coach David Schreyer locally, will have a chance to get plenty of rounds in prior to his next trip to Scotland on the cusp of the 2013-14 school year. He'll play with East Coweta High's JV squad in the spring while also trying to work toward earning 'stars' at events to help gain entrance to competitive youth tours including the American Junior Golf Association for 14-17 year-olds.

Right now, though, just some regular sunshine would suffice for Whitton, who will turn 14 in January.

'I can't wait,' he said.

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