Anthony Wayne High School golfer Khalil "Cleo" Trumbull, 17, is on cloud nine this week, and for good reason.
He recently defeated some of the best junior golfers in the world during the annual Optimist International Junior Golf Championships at the PGA National Resort and Spa in Palm Beach Gardens, Fla.
The annual tournament features players ages 10 to 18 from more than 35 states and 30 nations. Past champions include the likes of LPGA Tour members Brittany Lincicome and PGA Tour members Jonathan Byrd and Jeff Overton, according to tournament officials.
After placing in the top five during two previous qualifying tournaments earlier this year, Trumbull, an incoming senior, placed 44th overall out of 150 finalists last weekend. He also beat out an estimated 3,340 junior golfers who competed in qualifying tournaments worldwide, according to officials.
"I'm very proud of myself," Trumbull said during an interview after the tournament. "I wasn't as nervous as I thought I'd be. I felt like I handled the pressure very well."
Pat Phillips, head coach of boys golf at Anthony Wayne, said Trumbull's performance was no accident.
He was a part of the Anthony Wayne team last year that won the Northern Lakes League title, and he took second-team all-league honors.
"It's not a fluke that he's there," Phillips said. "I'm not familiar with any of our kids ever qualifying for [the Optimist]. Most of our varsity kids played in the qualifier. He was the only kid off our team to even qualify for the state. I think his 18-hole average last year was about 78."
In fact, Trumbull placed fourth overall at a May 9 first-round qualifying tournament in Delphos, Ohio. During the June 14 second-round qualifier in Middletown, Ohio, he placed fifth overall, qualifying him to travel to Florida to compete in the tournament's finals.
He said the star treatment he received throughout the weekend in Florida made him feel like a professional golfer.
When he teed off for the first round of the day, he was introduced by a course announcer, he said.
"[The announcer] was like, 'From Waterville, Ohio, Khalil Trumbull,' and everybody clapped," he said. "They had quiet signs like the pros. They had tons of camera people out there and the news was out there.
"A lot of spectators were there. [At a regular high school tournament] you might just get parents. There you had spectators."
Trumbull was most proud of the fact that after a round of 18 on Saturday, he made the final cut to compete with the top 50 golfers on Sunday.
"Top 50 was the cut and I made the cut," he said. "These are some of the best kids in the world so I think I did very well."
Trumbull lives in Waterville with his cousin, Sandy Hood, and her husband Jason. They are Khalil's legal guardians.
He said his love of golf began as a child when his grandfather, Tom Trumbull, 61, of Oregon, introduced him to the game.
"When he was probably around 3 years old I went and got him a plastic golf club, gave him some balls and let him have some fun," Tom Trumbull said about his grandson. "When the [Adam Sandler] golf movie Happy Gilmore came out, he used to do the Happy Gilmore swing. He got a kick out of that, and I think that was what really inspired him to get going with it."
When Khalil reached adolescence, he and his grandfather started going on regular golf outings together, something they still do.
"He's self taught. I put in a lot of things and influences over the years, [but] I think it's something he grew into," Tom Trumbull said about his grandson. "He was inspired by it, and it's a sport he really likes."
With a healthy dose of confidence, Trumbull now hopes to help his team win a second league title and to compete in the Optimist next year.
"I'm going to try to qualify again," he said. "Hopefully I'll make it cause it was just the greatest experience."
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