Pellot, 12, Shows Competitive Zeal and Work Ethic Beyond Her Years May 30, 2017 | MYRTLE BEACH, S.C. By Tom Cunneff

Izzy Pellot is the youngest player in the Women's Four-Ball field, but she's not interested in anything other than winning. (USGA/Darren Carroll)

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It’s Memorial Day and an absolutely perfect day for the beach at The Dunes Golf & Beach Club in Myrtle Beach, S.C. The eastern side of the clubhouse beckons with sand, surf and bright umbrellas, as well as a 700-foot, oceanside pool. In other words, it’s the perfect place for a 12-year-old.

But Izzy Pellot, of Apopka, Fla., isn’t any 12-year-old. She’s on the other side of the clubhouse competing on a brawny Robert Trent Jones Sr. design in her first national championship, the 2017 U.S. Women’s Amateur Four-Ball Championship, and she wouldn’t have it any other way. For Pellot, a day on the golf course is better than a day at the beach.

“I do miss being on the beach,” she said, looking at it through the window of the clubhouse dining room after her 1-up victory in the first round of match play with her 15-year-old partner, Chloe Schiavone, “but golf is much better than hanging out with friends and doing other stuff.”

After all, what “other stuff” could top rolling in a 30-foot putt on the final hole to win your match as Pellot did on the 18th hole on Monday?

“It doesn't get any better [with a partner],” said Schiavone. “As you saw on 18, she's as clutch as they come.”

Her coach at Wekiva Golf Club north of Orlando, Matt Frith, works with a lot of really good players and aspiring tour pros, but none displays Pellot’s grit and grin for the game.

“I’m more invested in her than any other student just because of how she is,” he said. “She just loves it.”

Pellot will tell you that her two favorite things about playing golf are pounding the driver and putting, but Frith knows that winning is what she loves the most. After she and Schiavone shot 66 at Vinoy Golf Club in St. Petersburg, Fla., to qualify for the Women’s Four-Ball last November just one stroke behind the medalists, he congratulated her on the phone but all he got back was a half-hearted “yeah.”

“I said, ‘Izzy, you just qualified for a national championship and she goes, ‘We didn't win,’” he recalled with a laugh. “She was mad.”

She certainly knows how to win. In the last six months, Pellot has captured three Florida Junior Tour titles in the 13-15 division (her age division is too easy) and is currently ranked third in the state. Last year, she won the Junior PGA Championship, ages 13-15, and missed qualifying for the U.S. Girls’ Junior Championship by one stroke. 

It’s hard to believe now, but when Pellot started playing four years ago, a local pro told her mother right in front of Izzy that she didn’t have any talent for the game.

“The pro said she could do it for fun but didn’t think she could be very good,” said Heather, a recruiter for Kelly Services. “It just made Izzy want to prove him wrong.”

Her father, Jose, who owns a construction company and often caddies for her, had tried every other sport to get her active and outside but nothing clicked until he introduced her to golf.

“I grew up playing sports and she just wanted to watch TV and sit on the couch and I wanted to change that,” said Jose, who was a good amateur boxer. “She was getting overweight. I knew golf could get expensive and I really couldn’t afford it, but I had to try something.”

She’s no couch potato these days. Izzy is out of the house every morning at 7 a.m. to work on her game at Wekiva till 3 p.m. before getting home-schooled the rest of the day. She’s so tired she can barely stay up past 8:30.

As for the pro who said she’d never be any good?

“He called us to come play on his junior team, but we were like, ‘No, no, we’re good,’” said Heather, adding that he never admitted to being wrong about her. “He's not the type who would ever say that. I'm sure he kicks himself when he thinks about it because none of the players in the junior league her age can compare to how Izzy plays.”

Few 12-year-olds can.

Tom Cunneff is a South Carolina-based freelance writer.

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