Junior Golf The Gulf Club

Meet Eru Kawakami, the Al Ain eight-year-old who has a better swing than you

By Kent Gray
Fraser McLaughlan knew he was working with a special talent when he witnessed young Eru Kawakami chip in three times in a row during a skills challenge.

What shocked the disbelieving Al Ain Equestrian, Shooting & Golf Club (AESGC) head teaching professional even more was Kawakami’s nonchalant reaction to the rapid-fire hole-outs. Call it the innocence of youth.

“What was impressive was the lack of reaction from Eru as if ‘what’s the big deal, I do this all the time’,” said McLaughlan.

The eight-year-old of Japanese and New Zealand decent is making a habit of turning heads. Kawakami is believed to be one of the youngest players ever to contest a senior men’s club event in the UAE after teeing it up in AESGC monthly medal last weekend. Unfazed by the occasion, Kawakami whipped around the desert links in 96 strokes for a highly credible net 69 off his official EGF handicap of 27.

These video clips of the youngster hitting balls under the watchful gaze of McLaughlan certainly mark Kawakami as a name to watch. A warning to adult amateurs struggling with their games – the controlled takeaway and full, flowing finish won’t make you feel any better about your achy-breaky game, much less his complete lack of fear out of the sand:

Oh to be young, supple and fearless.

Kawakami (apparently also a dab hand on the ukulele) first picked up a club four years ago in Australia as his older sister Sakura, now 14, honed a game that today warrants a scratch handicap. But it wasn’t until the family moved to Al Ain a little over two years ago that Eru really got into the swing of things.

Sakura Kawakami, who lists Kiwi former world No.1 Lydia Ko as her idol, plays off scratch at just 14 and has negotiated Al Ain in a best of 68 strokes.

“The Academy Course [at AESGC] fascinated him as he could all of a sudden reach the green in two shots, a big change from the long courses he had tried out in Australia,” McLaughlan explains. “This was the point the golf bug truly bit. Within six months he was going around the Academy nine in under 40 shots as a six-year old. At this stage he was coming to junior golf classes on top of the individual lessons he was sitting in on with his sister.”

In the past 18 months, Eru has competed all over the UAE for the AESGC junior club team and has produced some encouraging scores in the Al Naboodah Junior Series recently reinstated by the UAE PGA.

Related: Al Naboodah Trophy – Junior Redevelopment

“Eru weighs about 25 kilos with his golf clubs on his back so he is somewhat limited in power. What he temporarily lacks in power he makes up in accuracy and close range skills a hundred times over,” McLaughlan said.

“It is always great to see the juniors who come through the academy program here move on and obtain their full handicap to allow them to compete over the main course. Eru, has done this quickly, but this is down to the amount of work he puts into his game.”

While impressed by Kawakami’s impressive start to the game, McLaughlan stresses the importance of perspective around a prospect so young. He’s also being careful not to over coach the young man.

“I push him in the right direction every now and then but it goes as far as an occasional set-up tweak or thought on his technique. He is a very talented young man so for the majority of time I need to give very little input…the last thing I want is for him to lose his instinctive natural approach he has to the game.

“I’m just a net in case he stumbles a little. He is a pleasure to teach, and I am sure as he continues to grow he is going to develop into a fantastic golfer.”

Indeed. With a best score of 26 on the academy course and a 91 on Al Ain’s par-70 championship layout, we can’t wait to see what happens when young Eru grows into his impressive swing.

Sakura, UAE Teen Sports Personality of the year in 2017s, is clearly trending nicely in her goal to make it big on the LPGA Tour but looks like being pushed all the way by Eru who lists beating his older sibling as his “golfing ambition”.

Big sis can’t say she hasn’t been warned.

Eru Kawakami, just eight, hits balls under the watchful gaze of AESGC head teaching professional Fraser McLaughlan.


Kent Gray

Kent Gray

Editor of Golf Digest Middle East. Has written about golf since 1989 and owned a suspect short game even longer.

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