Talented golfer has time on his side while confined to home turf

Cooper Moore. Photo: Geoff Sloan
Cooper Moore. Photo: Geoff Sloan
Cooper Moore isn’t the first sportsman to be put off his game by the garish neon lights of the Las Vegas strip or Fremont St downtown.

On his first visit he stayed in the MGM Grand, where Mike Tyson made a relatively meagre living in Brad Garrett’s Comedy Club.

He’d bare his soul throughout “Undisputed Truth”, a cautionary tale for boxing fans as the heavyweight champion of the world detailed how he squandered millions of dollars worth of purses.

A prodigiously talented golfer, Moore made his most recent trip to Nevada’s desert oasis in 2018, and three years on, until recently, he has been whiling away his afternoons teeing off against painting ground sheets suspended in a Christchurch garage.

Fortunately this is not a story of unfulfilled potential, of opportunity squandered – it’s quite the opposite as Moore has been walking the fairways of Clearwater and Waitikiri since the downgrade to alert level 3.

Cooper Moore, seen here celebrating an approach shot as a nine-year-old, has gradually tamed...
Cooper Moore, seen here celebrating an approach shot as a nine-year-old, has gradually tamed Russley since he joined the club’s junior programme four years earlier. Photo: Supplied
While global sport’s household names have been impacted by the Covid-19 pandemic – Tokyo’s Olympians had anything but an authentic Games experience – aspiring athletes have also had to live with measures required to contain the virus.

Moore, who turned 13 in June, still has time on his side though, elite golfers, like tennis players, tend to start very, very young in this day and age.

After all, he swung his first club right-handed as a four-year-old, and by the time Moore was eight he had made the cut for an International Junior Golf Association tournament. 

He was 10th on the leaderboard, and the Marshland School pupil learned his lesson, ditto dad.

“Being in Las Vegas we made it a family holiday as well, it wasn’t just about golf,” said Jayden Moore.

“We were playing golf and going to the strip and seeing what was happening there. By the time we got to the third round, Cooper was pretty tired, the 40 deg C heat took it out of you.”

Cooper met New Zealand golfing legend Sir Bob Charles at Russley in March. He has aspirations to...
Cooper met New Zealand golfing legend Sir Bob Charles at Russley in March. He has aspirations to play in the Christchurch leg of the Charles Tour at Pegasus next month. Photo: Supplied
When the Moores returned in 2018, they adopted a business before pleasure approach for the World Stars of Junior Golf tournament.

“We had a detailed plan. We stayed 25 minutes from the strip, close to the course. After eight days of golf, we had the holiday,” Jayden Moore said.

Work before play paid off as Cooper, a member at Clearwater, Russley and Waitikiri, won the boys’ nine-10 years grade at the extra hole at Paiute Golf Resort.

“That was a really good experience for us to see where he was at. It was also an eye-opener to understand what golf was like on a world stage,” Jayden Moore said.

Unfortunately Cooper’s focus has narrowed to domestic tournaments since Covid-19 emerged, sabotaging plans for another trip Stateside last July.

Cooper Moore. Photo: Supplied
Cooper Moore. Photo: Supplied
He was meant to play the Mission Hills Country Club in Rancho Mirage, California, home course of the ANA Inspiration, one of five majors on the LPGA tour – and stage for the Future Champions Golf Callaway World Championships.

“It’s kind of disappointing he’s not been able to head overseas. You come a little bit accustomed to it and when it doesn’t happen you’re staying at home for the winter. He was starting to build a little bit of a profile for himself,” Moore said.

“It is frustrating for him but he’s pretty mature in that sense, he understands the reason why.”

Cooper, whose handicap was 11.4 when he won in Las Vegas, has had to settle for trimming that figure to 1.5 while setting club records.

He won the Waitikiri senior men’s club championship early this year as a 12-year-old, the youngest winner since the title’s inception in 1939.

In his last major tournament in May, Cooper featured in Canterbury’s under-19 team for the South Island Interprovincial Championships in Dunedin and was fourth in the individual under-16 competition.

In an ideal world he would have been in Auckland this week at the New Zealand under-16 championships, the targets are now in October: the New Zealand Amateur Championships in Dunedin and qualification for the Charles Tour DVS Pegasus Open.

“He’s keen to challenge himself against New Zealand’s professional and amateur players. It’s a good learning curve and a good opportunity to see what you have to do to get your game to that level.”

Though expectations are high, Cooper’s ego doesn’t match them, with talent not compromised by temperament.

Dad and his coach, Russley-based Rodney Yee, ensure Cooper stays on the straight and narrow. 

“I was pretty fortunate to be involved with a pretty successful sports team,” said Jayden Moore, a former manager of the world champion Black Sox softball team.

“You come across a lot of athletes that can be a little bit ahead of themselves. As a family we’ve always been mindful of that.

“You can control your attitude, your effort and your actions. That’s something we always push with Coops.

“You never know who you’re playing golf with. You put your name down on Saturday and play with somebody (in a tournament). If you’re a good person, that person you’re playing with might be your employer in five years time.

“He’s also been lucky enough to have been surrounded by very good golfers who have also got good goals in terms of where they want to be in life, in the future.”

Cooper Moore. Photo: Geoff Sloan
Cooper Moore. Photo: Geoff Sloan
Cooper was in Canterbury’s development programme as Amelia Garvey – who turned pro in April after a successful collegiate career – was finessing her game locally.

“He was lucky enough to be around her and a lot of young guys that are now in college in America. He knows within himself he’s still got a lot of work to do and not many people make it,” Jayden Moore said.

Cooper, who lives a sweetly struck nine-iron from Waitikiri, has a putting green in the backyard and hasn’t replaced all divots on the lawn.

He also plans to make his mark one day at the 2032 Olympics in Brisbane and the PGA tour – a division one college scholarship in America is the pathway to that goal after secondary school at St Bede’s. Cooper spends 10 hours a week practicing and plays Saturday and Sunday.

“I never get bored. There’s lots of different opportunities and you make lots of good friendships,” he said, naturally nominating length off the tee as his biggest work on.

And although golf is a serious business, mercifully Cooper still acts his age.

He might have won the boys’ 10-year-old crown at the Australian Age Group Championships at Royal Pines on the Gold Coast in 2019, but the President’s Cup at Royal Melbourne provided the moment of that journey.

“We’d only been there for five minutes, we were standing on the fourth tee and (American) Justin Thomas gave me his ball. That made the trip.”
 

 

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