When you meet Cole Sajonia you're meeting a great, focused 6-handicap golfer. You're also meeting a happy 11-year old with a mischievous grin and poise beyond his years.
Cole started as a left-hander at age 1. How far can a 1-year-old hit the ball? "Around 25 yards, with a plastic golf club," Cole says with a grin.
At age 4 he switched to a right-handed stance because that was the way he watched his father, Brian Sajonia, hit. His early interest in golf is not too surprising when he explains that, at 6 months, he watched from his high chair as his father practiced in the garage.
Cole, supported in his efforts by his mother Teresa, lives in Joseph and practices at the Enterprise golf course. "I'm very proud of him," she said. "He's really worked hard for this and he deserves every bit of it. With all the local support he's gotten, too ... you can't ask for much more than that."
"I like being competitive the best. I try beating my old scores. I set scores to beat and then when I do I play on my handicap," said Cole. Like all great golfers he competes first against himself and enjoys it.
Cole said that the competition in Arizona, where his father lives, is much tougher than the players he faces around the northwest. "It's 11- and 12-year-olds down there, and since I'm only 11 there're kids who can hit a lot farther." He plans to keep at his practice to overcome the age gap.
This year Cole has been invited to San Diego for the Callaway Junior World Championships. There'll be 80 competitors in his age division, 12 of them the best invited from around the country - and Cole has an invitation. The championships, a three round affair, will be held July 13 - 16.
"It's going to be a lot of fun," said Cole.
The tournament will be held at the Torrey Pines North course. "A lot of PGA tournaments are held there," said Cole. "Tiger Woods has won that tournament three times. That's pretty cool," Cole said with a grin.
In 1968, the inaugural Callaway tournament had 475 entrants from 20 states and six countries. In 2001, Junior World hosted 1040 participants from 43 states and 45 countries.
The Junior World Golf Championships have a total field size exceeding 1000 golfers and representing an impressive number of countries and states. Many Junior World champions have gone on to enjoy successful careers on the PGA and LPGA Tours, including Amy Alcott, Notah Begay, Brandie Burton, John Cook, Dorothy Delasin, Ernie Els, Phil Mickelson, Corey Pavin, Pat Perez, Joan Pitcock, Nick Price, Kim Shipman, Craig Stadler, David Toms and Tiger Woods.
"I hope to win this tournament - this is probably the biggest tournament I'll ever play in," said Sajonia. He hopes he'll be invited next year, too. It isn't lost on him that this is the same tournament Tiger Woods played, and won, at the same age.
What does the future hold for Cole? "I hope to get into Stanford on a golf scholarship - because they have a really good golf team. Or maybe the University of Arizona or Arizona State," he said.