Pressure is clearly not a deterrent for Gainesville’s Hudson Justus.
Clinging to a slim lead on the final hole of the US Kids Worlds Championship on Saturday, the 9-year-old who will be a fourth grader at Mount Vernon Elementary, put his second shot on the par-5 in the greenside bunker.
Most kids would panic in that situation.
Justus decided to shine with everything on the line and playing on the big stage.
About 30-yards from the cup, Justus calmly hit out of the sand and stuck it two feet from the cup.
“Never in my wildest dreams did I think he would stick it to two feet,” his father, Scott, said.
After that, Hudson made the short putt that broke from left to right to repeat as champion among some of the best kids his age in the country.
Justus’ three-day total of 208 was enough for a 54-hole score of 8-under par and a three-stroke win in Pinehurst, North Carolina.
It’s been a memorable summer for the entire Justus family.
On June 23, Justus won the 10-and-under division of the Future Masters in Dothan, Alabama.
These two events are widely considered the biggest junior events for golf in the country.
And young Hudson has won both in a six-week span.
“We’re still in awe as a family watching Hudson play,” said Scott, who is assistant superintendent of White County schools. “It’s almost like an out-of-body experience.”
It was an especially touching moment when Hudson drained the winning shot, father and son engaged in a full embrace to celebrate the moment on the 18th green.
“Just to know, that our nine-year old boy for the second time is the best in the world, the emotions hit all at once,” Scott Justus said.
It was a little uncertain where Justus stood going into the final hole, except for the fact that Hudson was in front.
There was some problems with the scoring app online and Scott believed his son had a two-shot lead after a bogey on No. 17.
It turned out, amidst a growing crowd watching the final pairing, that Hudson was up by three.
Justus’ birdie on the final hole, combined with a growing crowd of spectators for the final pairing, made it a compelling finish.
Nerves certainly heightened for Scott, his son's caddie, when he saw his son’s second shot go into the sand.
Every scenario was still on the table.
Hudson didn’t seem to mind the magnitude of the moment.
His third shot hit the ground two feet from the cup without rolling.
Justus found a little separation earlier on the back nine with birdies on No. 13 and 14.
However, dropping a shot on No. 17 and playing a tricky third stroke out of the bunker on No. 18 gave plenty of reasons for Justus to be apprehensive.
But he’s just built different.
Justus finished out his win with the same composure he plays with every day, while practicing, at the Chattahoochee Golf Club.
Scott said that this is the fourth straight year that his son, who took up golf at age 3, has played in the final pairing at the US Kids World Championships.
The best part of this promising young golfer’s career is that it’s what he wants to do.
Scott said the only sports stipulation is that his son needs to continue playing basketball, due to the lessons learned from playing a team sport.
But every day, during the summer, Hudson is ready bright and early to hit the golf course.
And never is an opportunity wasted on horsing around on the golf course.
This is already a passion for Hudson.
And as long as he keeps enjoying it, Scott said their entire family will facilitate those opportunities.