Even for someone so small, it was hard to miss a four-year-old Isaac Riches roaming the practice green at the Australian Open at Royal Sydney in November.
As misfiring American child prodigy Jordan Spieth spluttered towards victory, the Armidale youngster spent about seven hours on the practice green – displaying a level of skill and focus that attracted the attention of folk from Golf Australia.
The following month, Golf Australia flew Isaac to Melbourne’s Huntingdale Golf Club and interviewed and filmed him before releasing online a 30 second advertisement of him under the title My Golf Presents.
Less than a year after taking up the game, Isaac, who turned five in January and is yet to attend kindergarten, was the “poster boy” of the My Golf program for his age division.
The accompany video of him in action drew an exuberant tweet from Australia’s former world No.1 Jason Day: “Hey Isaac! Dream big, practice hard but mostly have fun! Look forward to seeing you on @PGATOUR in future.”
The message exacerbated the disquiet felt by Isaac’s parents, Damian and Rebecca, a lapsed golfer and someone who has never played the game, over the expectations already swirling around the oldest of their three boys.
“Those kind of labels (child prodigy) have already been made about him,” Damian said. “Jason Day saying he looks forward to seeing him on the PGA, even that made us a bit uncomfortable as parents.
“But who knows where this will lead in the future,” he added, “because at the moment he’s certainly something a bit special.”
Just how special was revealed when he played his first tournament last week, the Australian Junior Age Division Championships, no less, and finished second.
As a result, he was selected to represent Australia at the World Stars of Junior Golf and the Junior Olympics in Las Vegas in July. His parents declined the invitations. “We think it’s important to take a step back,” Damian said.
“The kid loves golf, he’s got a pretty amazing talent and a lot of people are noticing that. But we’ve still got a son to look after. As parents, that’s the most important thing.” He added: “We think it’s not the last time we’ll have that kind of opportunity.”