Jaden Soong, a seventh-grader at Thomas Starr King Middle School in Los Feliz, plans to miss classes June 5, so he’ll need his mother to write a note.
There have been some funny notes for missing class dreamed up by parents and students through the years: doctor’s appointments for thumb injuries from playing video games, dentist appointments for broken teeth from roughhousing with siblings.
Soong’s excuse for missing class is extraordinary: He’ll be the only 13-year-old trying to qualify for the U.S. Open golf tournament in a 36-hole competition at Hillcrest Country Club.
“I didn’t expect to make it this far, so the next round is just learning and getting the experience,” he said. “I really should be in school that day.”
Some middle schoolers dream of snow days or beach days. Soong, at 5 feet 2 and 115 pounds, could play golf from morning to sundown.
“I love golf more than any other thing I can imagine,” he said.
He shot 72 two weeks ago at Brentwood Country Club to become one of five qualifiers to advance to the final tournament that will decide at-large berths for the U.S. Open, which will be played June 15 to 18 at Los Angeles Country Club.
Soong never has played 36 holes in a day, so that’s going to be challenging enough.
The Burbank resident first started hitting a plastic golf ball in the backyard when he was 2. “I have loved the game ever since,” he said.
Twice he has broken windows. As a 5-year-old he shattered a glass door putting and at 8 he broke a window with an errant shot. Thankfully, he has graduated to practicing on courses, with his drives going as far as 280 yards.
“I work on putting a lot, so I feel that’s one of my strengths and I’m good off the tee,” he said.
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In the qualifying tournament at Brentwood, Soong played with two players in their 20s. Imagine their surprise when they learned their partner was 13.
“They were shocked. You could tell by their facial expressions,” he said.
Asked about his chances to make the U.S. Open, Soong said, “If I keep the right mentality and play the game I know, I can get close. I know I can give myself a chance.”
He’s not concerned about his age, size or strength.
“Golf is defined as one of those sports you can be small and not as strong as adults and be a lot younger,” he said. “If you keep your mental game, you’ll get close. I’m not going to outhit and outputt them, but I can outthink them.”
Some classmates know about Soong’s golf interests, but he said, “They don’t really care because they don’t like golf.”
Of course, if they see Soong on television, he’ll zoom up the popularity scale.
Imagine what would happen if Soong qualifies: He’d be doing interviews on ESPN and the Golf Channel. He’d also need another note from his mother, because the last day of school is June 15.
The superintendent of the Los Angeles Unified School District, Alberto Carvalho, knows about Soong’s golfing talent, so expect no problems for any absences. Who knows, maybe he’ll be in the gallery rooting for him.
Soong already knows how he’ll react if he makes it.
“I would probably be screaming at the top of my lungs,” he said. “That would be insane.”