✦ Sometimes people are just born to do something. Natural talent is in their blood and their destiny almost seems preordained.
It is a notion that very much applies to young Louise Landgraf, a 13-year-old resident of Phuket in Thailand.
Louise attends the acclaimed British International School Phuket (BISP) where she is a keen Year 8 student. She also enjoys drawing, swimming and especially cooking with her mum. She is also good at golf. Very good at golf. In fact several expert observers have proclaimed her somewhat of a golf prodigy, such is the natural talent she has displayed since a very early age. She has dreams of becoming a professional golfer, following in the footsteps of her idols such as Brooke Henderson, Minjee Lee and Lydia Ko.
And she certainly seems to be very much on the right track. Louise, who is half-Thai and half-French, took an obvious shine to the sport when she was merely four-years-old. Her father Marc, who has a long and successful career working in the hospitality business, would often take time out alone and hit a few balls at a local course after work, a way to decompress and unwind from a demanding day at the office.
One day, his young daughter joined him at the local course and was clearly drawn to the sport. She would follow her father and emulate his actions, copying his stance and swing. When asked if she wanted to try having a swing of a golf club herself, Louise gleefully accepted and it was immediately clear that she possessed a natural talent and temperament.
It is fair to say she never looked back. Louise seemed instantly hooked on her new discovery and it wasn’t too long before she joined the Dragon Kids Golf Academy at the Phunaka Golf Centre Phuket. Situated conveniently near her family home, it allowed Louise to practice daily and she soon graduated to the course.
In 2015, while a student at Head Start International School and only six-years-old, Louise represented Thailand in the under-six age group at the 46th IMG Golf Junior World Championship held at the Colina Park Golf Course in San Diego, California, USA. One of 1,200 participants from all around the world representing 60 countries, Louise finished in 4th place with a score of 187, just one shot behind 3rd place and only two behind 2nd place.
It was clear Louise possessed a great talent, irrespective of her junior years. It was something not lost on her coach at the Phunaka Golf Centre in Phuket who had helped nurture her game.
“Louise is only six-years-old and has been training at our academy for just over eight months at ranking S (under six-years-old),” her coach Pro Punk told The Phuket News in August 2015. “She has done very well at this level which requires her to play a 2,800 yard range.”
Coach Pro Punk continued to mentor Louise as she also joined renowned local course Laguna Golf Phuket - and it wasn’t long before she was making her mark at the award-winning course!
Officially the club’s youngest member and still four months shy of her seventh birthday, Louise made history as the youngest golfer ever to achieve a hole-in-one around the newly upgraded golf course.
Playing off the red tee on the 108-yard 8th hole, Louise hit a perfect shot which sailed down the fairway and dropped directly into the hole – an ‘ace’ shot indeed that created Club history!
“So many golfers play the game for years without achieving an ace,” commented Club Manager at the time Walaiporn Pattamavichitvong. “For Louise to do it at only six-years-old is absolutely brilliant.”
Between 2014 and the present day, Louise has participated in over 80 competitions and tournaments, both nationally in her homeland of Thailand and overseas. She has consistently finished in the top-three places in the majority of these tournaments, often claiming the top prize. In the 2014/15 season she won four of her first six competitions, including first place at Krabi Pakasai Golf Club, Katathong Golf Club in Phang Nga, Taplamu Navy Golf Course in Khao Lak, and Royal Hill Golf Club in Nakhon Nayok.
Louise also finished in 3rd place in the Under-12 girls competition of the Nick Faldo Series, South Thailand Championship in September 2017, which also afforded her the chance to meet first hand one of the golf greats. Faldo has since mentioned first-hand he is fully aware of Louise’s burgeoning talent. Two years later Louise won the same tournament.
Louise’s game travels well too, with several top-pace finishes at overseas tournaments, including the Girls 9-10 year IJGA Golf Junior World Star Championship in Las Vegas in 2018, the Girls under-11 title at the 2019 US Kids Golf Junior World Championship in Johor Bahru, Malaysia, and the Girls 11-12 age Asia-Pacific Golf Junior Age Group Master at the Pelican Waters course in Caloundra, Australia in 2020.
Last year Louise and her family travelled to California to take part in four different competitions. She won two of them and finished second-place in another. Playing in the World Star of Junior Golf Championships at Paiute Golf Course, Las Vegas, Louise’s first-round score of 64 (-8) was the lowest official score in her age bracket since the competition started several years ago and also a course record.
On returning home to Phuket Louise then won the Girls Under-14 American Cup by The Agency Recruit at her home course of Laguna Phuket Golf Club.
Having the right support
Since then, Louise has continued to blossom as part of the High-Performance Golf Academy at BISP under the supervision of Head Coach Oliver Bates and Jeff Lamantia, Director Of Sports. She also resumes her daily practice with her Thai coach Pro Noon at Phuket Country Club Phuket and is affiliated with the French Golf Federation (FFG) through Kempferhof Golf Club, Plobsheim, France and is advised by golf coach and trackman expert Mr Laurent Cabanne.
This year Louise already has 21 competitions lined up, domestically and abroad, which will see her return to the US and also take in tournaments in France. One thing that is abundantly clear is the future is very busy and very bright indeed.
However, being blessed with natural talent is one thing but having the support infrastructure is quite another. Stop and think of the countless examples of prodigious talents that were wasted in entertainment, sports, academia and other fields due to misguided or a total lack of support that could not complement that obvious natural talent.
Louise clearly has the full support of her proud parents. Speaking to her father Marc, it is clear he beams with pride and he and his wife offer full support to their aspiring daughter, which is heart-warming to witness.
However, crucially, this is done while maintaining a realistic balance and is very much focused on Louise and her welfare. Her parents have allowed her to pursue and develop her affiliation with golf at her pace and of her choosing. They have never pushed or pressured her. Again, think of the various examples of a child prodigy that is forced into pursuing dreams, harried by over-eager parents, who ultimately falls out of love with the very thing he or she is so naturally gifted at.
“From the very first day she picked up a golf club, we have encouraged and supported Louise but never pushed her,” says Marc. “We support her to do whatever she wants and whatever she feels most comfortable with. She simply loves playing golf and, as such, my wife and I have gladly supported her and will continue to do so.”
It is something her original coach Pro Punk attests to: “Her parents support her greatly when it comes to her playing. Golf is a sport which requires a lot of skill and practice and it is quite expensive in Phuket. Louise is lucky to come from a family which can financially support her golfing tuition.”
A change of scenery
The family are now looking at relocating so Louise can receive the requisite levels of coaching as she makes her inevitable move into the professional game. Phuket has been fantastic, admits Marc, but the infrastructure and development opportunities are nowhere near what they are elsewhere.
That is why the family are currently making tentative plans for a move Down Under to the idyllic Sunshine Coast. They are looking at locations such as Pelican Waters in Caloundra, where Louise won a tournament in 2020, or maybe Noosa. Marc believes not only the golfing development opportunities available there are ideal but the general Aussie lifestyle is perfect for him, his wife and Louise to flourish.
“We are considering opening an authentic Thai restaurant with an associated cooking school,” he says with a smile. “That would be my and my wife’s business venture and focus as Louise continues her progression. It will be 100% Thai-focused, not mixed with other culinary options. It will offer something different, and delicious, to the local community!”
There is no doubt Louise is destined for great things out on the golf course – indeed she has already impressively achieved so much given her tender years. But for now she is continuing to enjoy Phuket life, time at school developing in the classroom, time with friends and, of course, time expanding her already impressive golf skills. In January she took part in a Pro Am Game with 10-time Asian Tour winner Scott Hend of Australia at Blue Canyon Country Club Phuket.
“Louise is incredibly humble and kind-hearted,” comments Marc. “She often dedicates her time to a local orphanage to help children much less fortunate than her, donating toys, books and games. She also regularly commits to charity initiatives such as the recent recycling project within the Loch Palm Golf Course compound here in Phuket. She has even taken it upon herself to organise beach clean-ups, cleaning plastic waste from the beautiful beaches of her home island.”
Louise is clearly not only super-talented but also a grounded, respectable young lady that has a bright future ahead of her. Watch this space as Louise Landgraf is a name you will no doubt be hearing a lot more of in the years to come...
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