The Maine delegation at the U.S. Kids Tour World Championship parade in Pinehurst, North Carolina.

Kellen Adickes at the U.S. Kids Tour World Championship playing at the Legacy Golf Links in Pinehurst, North Carolina.

It was a good first year for the Portland chapter of the U.S. Kids Golf Tour. The local tour sent eight players to the U.S. Kids Golf Tour in Pinehurst, North Carolina, including four from Maine, from Aug. 3-5.

Maine golfers included Drew Mertzel of Winthrop, who finished tied for 13th in the six-and-under division. Mia Hornberger of North Turner finished tied for 96th in the Girls’ U12 division. Eli Spaulding of Freeport, who plays out of Fox Ridge in Auburn, finished tied for 129th in the Boys’ U11 Division. Kellen Adickes of Bristol finished tied for 145th in the Boys’ U10 Division.

“I had fun,” Mertzel said of competing with kids from across the globe.

The tour had four others who hailed outside of Maine that played in a couple of local tournaments and qualified for the World Championships.

“It’s one of the reasons why I started the tour, when put the bag on and carried it for my grandson (Adickes) in Connecticut over a year ago, that’s when the light bulb went off in my head,” Portland Tour Director Joe Dubois said. “We have to bring this home. The side benefit to that is the local tour, there’s going to be a certain amount of kids that’s going to qualify for the World Championships.”

One thing the U.S. Kids Tour allows is parents or guardians to be a caddie for their child.

To qualify for the World Championships, players must have played at least four tournaments and must have met the scoring requirements for their division at least twice.

The World Championships occupied the Pinehurst Village Resort which has nine courses on the property including the famed No. 2  course that has hosted major events like the U.S. Open for men and women, a Ryder Cup and a PGA Championship. They had some of the divisions play on courses outside of the Village.

“Pinehurst was a great environment for the kids,” Mertzel’s father, Jeff, said. “For the kids to play with international kids and make relationships with the American kids with the kids he played in his age bracket was really neat. In the groups he played in, he played with one American, a boy from Georgia, a boy from Japan, a boy from Thailand and a boy from Paraguay.”

Jeff Mertzel said a lot of those international kids didn’t speak much English, but the kids did do a lot of high-fiving or fist bumping each other when someone made a good shot.

Dubois arrived in North Carolina before the World Championships to help run the Team Championships, where some of the top 13-18 year olds from across the globe competed.

The event also had a major parade.

“There were thousands of people from 60 countries and 48 states in that parade,” Dubois said. “For the first time, we had the state of Maine flag carried along with the state of Maine banner. As we were following everybody, families go with the kids in the parade. As we were going down the street there were people on the sidelines cheering you and saying, ‘Hey, we are from Maine.’ It was amazing at how many people that were involved. The kids loved it.”

Dubois said one family flew in a caddie who caddies on the European Tour to the tournament.

Mertzel competed at Midland Country Club, which is outside the property of the Pinehurst resort. Jeff thought it was a great course for the six-and-under division since the players didn’t have to carry any water hazards

Jeff Mertzel knew his son had his ‘A’ game that week.

“Pretty much on the first day,” he said. “He played really well on the first day. After the first day he was tied for 10th my wife and I kind of really had an idea that he was going to continue to the next couple of days and finish pretty well. After the second day he was tied for ninth. It was really amazing to watch, not just Drew, but all the kids, at that level, with the amount of focus and determination those kids had at an young to able to be able to handle that level of play.”

Dubois hopes the success of locals going to the World Championships will bring more interest to the Portland Tour in the second year. U.S. Kids Golf was pleased with the success of the inaugural year.

“Our national tournament director — Greg Hubbard — down in Norcross, Georgia, said the quality of courses that we play rivals the Miami (Fla.) Tour and the (Palm Springs, California) Tour,” Dubois said. The kids and the families are getting a treat when they come. They get to play some nice venues and it’s so much fun.”

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Drew Mertzel at the U.S Kids Tour World Championships at the Midland Country Club in Pinehurst, North Carolina.

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