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11-year-old Gainesville golfer wins Georgia invitational
11-year-old Joe Carter of Gainesville won the U.S. Kids Golf Georgia State Invitational earlier this month in a playoff. - photo by For The Times

A recent victory is sending Joe Carter, an 11-year-old Gainesville boy, to the U.S. Kids Golf World Championship in Southern Pines, N.C., later this summer.

Carter earned a dramatic triumph in the Boys 11 division of the U.S. Kids Golf Georgia State Invitational earlier this month at Orchard Hills Golf Club in Newnan, edging Wills Kelly of Camden, S.C., in a playoff.

Both players finished with a two-day score of 18-over 162, one shot ahead of Dawsonville’s Andrew Hughes and Deven Patel of Locust Grove. Then, Carter had a par on the par-5 first hole to edge Kelly, who had a bogey putt left before Carter’s winning putt.

Following a tournament in Raleigh, N.C., at the end of this month, Carter’s next competition will be the World event. His main goal there is finishing in the top 20 so he can go back next year.

“I’m looking forward to playing my best and trying my hardest,” Carter said.

Carter shot a pair of 81s and overcame a three-shot deficit against Kelly entering the final round in the State Invitational. He still trailed by two going to the par-4 18th hole, where he made a par and Kelly had a double bogey to send it to a playoff. His par was aided by a 241-yard drive, his longest yet.

Carter, who began playing at the age of 9, tried to fend off nerves before the final round, though he felt some pressure down the stretch.

“I just felt like I had to play my regular day of golf,” he said.

Carter finished in second in the U.S. Kids Atlanta spring tour behind Liam Shinn of Norcross, capping his spring season with a 73 at the Tour Championship at The Oaks Course in Covington. His spring included a win at Chattahoochee Golf Course. Shinn was in the top five in his division at the World event last year.

“I love that because he’s competing against the best,” said Will Carter, Joe’s father.

In the midst of a busy schedule that included seven spring tournaments before his victory in the Georgia State event, Joe Carter last week won at Chateau Elan in a local qualifier for the Drive, Chip & Putt Championship.

He still has two more qualifiers to advance through to reach the DCPC, held in conjunction with The Masters in the spring at Augusta National Golf Club. One of the 2014 winners at the Augusta event, Lucy Li, became the youngest U.S. Women’s Open qualifier this year.

His father said having a golf course he can play in town is a major factor, as well. Will Carter has enjoyed getting to see his son’s progress over the past couple of years.

“He’s been gracious and humble about it,” Will Carter said. “It’s a great game, and it just makes you feel good.”

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