Originally published on WRAL Sports Fan – April 6, 2018
Professional golfers were having plenty of trouble Friday during the second round at the 2018 Masters.
Perhaps they need some pointers from Pikeville’s Ella June Hannant.
She’s already taken home a first-place trophy from Augusta National this week. Hannant won her age group in the Drive, Chip and Putt National Finals.
Not many 8-year-old girls get to see their names on the leaderboard at Augusta. But Ella June isn’t the typical 8-year-old girl.
“She wakes up and turns on the Golf Channel,” Reagan Hannant, her mom, said. “But realistically, her life is very much focused on golf, so that’s much different than most 8-year-olds.”
Ella June can drive the ball 170 yards, and golf legend Jack Nicklaus is one of her many heroes.
“I’m a very large Jack Nicklaus fan,” Ella June said. “As you can see, I’m wearing his hat right now, and I have a lot of his videos and books.”
Her mom puts it another way.
“Oh my goodness, she worships him. She sleeps and breathes Jack Nicklaus,” Reagan Hannant said.
Thanks to a connection through her coach, Ella got to chat with Nicklaus before and after her competition.
“He told me congratulations on the first call, but on the second, he said, ‘Go win your age division,'” Ella June said.
Ella certainly followed the Golden Bear’s advice. After a drive of 166.3 yards, Hannant entered the putting competition tied for second place. She took home the Girls 7-9 title after sinking two putts.
Ella June’s victory is no fluke.
She first picked up a club when she was 2, and she started playing competitively at 5.
Her first hole-in-one came this past December. Ella June believes it could be the first of many. She’s got big career goals.
“I want to be on the LPGA when I’m 16, because I want to be one of the youngest on the LPGA,” she said.
Ella June certainly has the full support of her home course, Lane Tree Golf Course in Goldsboro. She also attends North Carolina Virtual Academy, an online charter schools which allows her more schedule flexibility to complete schoolwork.
“When you own a golf course, there’s nothing that makes you happier than some kid coming through the course and make it to the LPGA like she’s going to do,” owner Bill Lane said.
Photo credit: Drive, Chip and Putt
To learn more about North Carolina Virtual Academy, visit http://ncva.k12.com.