'Par' on the course

Folsom youth one of the top golfers in the world in his age group
By: Matt Long Telegraph Sports Editor
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Golf has been called one of the most challenging individual sports to play well, which makes Param Sodhi’s accomplishments even more impressive. Param has yet to reach his ninth birthday and is a much better golfer than most adults heading to the course for their weekend tee time. Last month Param shot his career-best round of one-over-par 73 at the U.S. Kids Golf Monterey Challenge held at Del Monte Golf Course at Pebble Beach. Param lost the tournament in a play-off, but his second-place finish qualified him for the 2012 European Championships at East Lothian, Scotland, in June, as well as the U.S. Kids World Junior Championships at Pinehurst, NC, in August of next year. Param, a third-grader at Russell Ranch Elementary School in Folsom, is only four feet tall and weighs 55 pounds, but can drive a golf ball 200 yards straight down the fairway with a swing that would make many adults envious. He’s been playing golf since he was 4 and has been coached by PGA Professional Joe Findley at Mather Golf Course for the last 2 ½ years. In 83 lessons since July of 2009, Findley has taken Param’s natural ability and superb hand-eye coordination and created a solid golf swing that has the youngster playing with the best golfers at his age in the world. At the Monterey Challenge he finished in front of two players ranked in the top-10 in the world. “I’ve been teaching golf for 35 years and I’ve never seen a kid at 8 years old as focused as Param is,” Findley said. “He’s got a great swing. I want to hit my tee shots as straight as he hits his. His maturity in terms of golf, I’ve seen 15 year olds that aren’t as mature as he is.” Param’s dad, Sandeep, gives Findley all the credit for bringing out the best in his son’s game. He said his son’s greatest gift is his patience and calmness, saying he never gets too excited. “He’s competitive, but if he has a bad shot or bad hole, he’s not scarred by it; he just moves on,” Sandeep said. “The amount of happiness he’s given me watching him launch a golf ball is unbelievable.” Param, who coincidentally also goes by “Par,” has a lot of natural ability and was blessed with the skills and talent to play the game. Before he ever had one golf lesson, he traveled to India to visit his grandparents and a golf coach there saw him take two swings and proclaimed he’d be a champion before he’s 16, according to Sandeep. For his part, Par loves every part of the game, including practice. He generally meets with Findley for a lesson once every week or two and then has a practice session with his dad, plays a practice round with his dad and then hits a tournament on the weekend. “I love everything about golf,” Param said. “I do love driving the ball a lot, but I like everything.” Param not only likes to play golf, but he also likes to watch it. His favorite player is Tiger Woods. He said he hopes to attend Woods’ alma mater, Stanford University, and some day be a professional golfer. Param is looking forward to playing in the two big upcoming tournaments next year. While there he will be playing against the top 8- and 9-year-old golfers in the world. “I’m very excited to play in them,” Param said. “If I try hard and be calm, I think I could win them.”