Gallagher column: Young Kyger played like Tiger

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, September 2, 2008

By Ronnie Gallagher
There’s no truth to the rumor that the Country Club of Salisbury is changing its name to Kyger Woods.
If you had been on the course Sunday, you would’ve been calling the wunderkind who dominated the golf landscape “Kyger Woods.”
Johnny Kyger, a sturdy, 6-foot-4, 17-year-old, reminded most of us of the other Woods ó Tiger.
This kid’s special, folks.
Was there a shot he flubbed at any time during the past week? Nope. Was there any glaring weakness in his game? Nope.
Was this diaper dandy clearly the best individual player in the 2008 Labor Day Tournament?
“Man, he’s a great player,” whewed Ryan Honeycutt, who along with partner Dusty Holder, was left to shake their heads as Kyger teamed with 54-year-old dad John to win their first title.
“He’s 17 … he’s got a bright future ahead of him,” Honeycutt said.

Kyger is a rising senior in high school but not at Salisbury, where, last time I checked, they play some pretty fair golf. He attends Woodberry Forest in Virginia. By the way, he’s the school’s No. 1 player.
No one’s disputing that after the clinic he put on at the Country Club. In four rounds of golf ó including qualifying ó he was 16-under-par.
“The entire week, I’ve hit it close,” Kyger said. “I’ve hit good iron shots. I’ve hit good wedges.”
But the shot heard ’round the world was with his driver when it meant the most.
The Kygers and Honeycutt and Holder stepped onto the 18th tee even. Kyger wasn’t too happy that a two-shot lead had slipped away over the last two holes.
And now, there were 390 yards between himself and the hole.
Nerves? Pressure?
Yeah, right.
Kyger took a mammoth swing and the ball went into another orbit.
It came to rest about 65 yards in front of the green, a shot of … c’mon, don’t say it.
Three-hundred and 25 yards? Wow.
“That’s the biggest drive I’ve ever had on that hole,” he smiled afterward.
Then, he hit the biggest shot of the tournament.
After Holder gave himself a reasonable try at birdie, Kyger chipped onto the green to within … c’mon, don’t say it.
Three feet? Double wow.
“I watched it bounce,” Kyger said, “and I heard the crowd.”
The large gallery’s cheers were basically telling him that he and dear ol’ dad had won the most prestigious annual golf event in Rowan County.

Winning this weekend will have Kyger heading back to school with even more confidence than he had before. He may look back on Sunday as the day a successful golf career took off.
“I would love to play in college somewhere,” Kyger said. “If I do well in college, I’d like to keep going.”

Holder had felt pretty good about his chances on 18 until Special K took center stage. Holder walked around the green, looking at some of the fans. He knew it was over.
“Johnny killed that ball over the trees,” Holder marveled.
“And he didn’t have but about 100 yards on a freakin’ 400-yard par-four …”
Holder’s voice trailed off. As any competitor, he wanted to win. But his respect for the kid was easy to see. He and Honeycutt didn’t lose this tournament.
Johnny and his dad won it.
“He has great potential,” Holder said of Johnny. “I don’t know what he’s going to do in the future, but he’s got a great game.”
There’s only one thing certain about Johnny’s future.
Next year at this time, he’s got a championship to defend with his dad on the course at Kyger Woods, er, I mean the Country Club of Salisbury.

Contact Ronnie Gallagher at 704-797-4287 or