8th Grader Nicholas Willis Has Magical Trip to Scotland

When Nick Willis played in the Western North Carolina Tournament series through U.S. Kids’ Golf last fall, his goal was playing in the World Championship at Pinehurst this August.

Willis, a 12-year-old SCA student, not only finished well enough to qualify for Pinehurst, but in the process also qualified for the European Championship held in Scotland this summer. His family hadn’t thought much about putting him in the tournament until his grandfather, Don Willis, suggested it eight months ago.

Playing at Gullane No. 2, Willis placed 10th in his age group. He finished at 13-over and got better as the three-day tournament progressed.

The Spartanburg Christian Academy golfer admitted to some nerves on day one as he battled the wind to shoot an 80. He shaved five strokes off of that on Day 2 and shot a 75 in the rain. On Day 3, he faced the wind and the rain and shot his best score of 74.

“Over there you just have to hit the ball low and keep everything on the ground,” Willis said. “You have to land everything in front of the green.”

It was definitely different than what he’d experienced on U.S. courses, his dad and caddy Paul Willis said.

“The breaks are different,” he said. “It’s a different grass. The biggest thing was the wind.”

The highlight of his trip, however, was not the tournament and his strong finish.

It was the opportunity to play golf on the historic St. Andrews course. In order to play at St. Andrews, tee times are scheduled months in advance — which the Willis family didn’t know. Still, they were able to enter the ballot draw to get Nick a tee time.

Nick and his family were outside St. Andrews at 3:15 a.m. to enter to get the round. Willis shot an 83 on the course, but it was the 18th hole that made the round magical.

With a crowd watching, the rising 8th grader sank a 15-foot putt to par the hole and got applause from the folks in the gallery.

“I probably will never forget this experience ever,” he said. “It’s the best experience so far in my life.”