Jaden Soong, a seventh-grader at Thomas Starr King middle school in Los Feliz, plans to miss classes June 5, so he’ll need his mother to write a note.
There have been some funny notes dreamed up by parents and students through the years for missing class, from doctor appointment for thumb injury playing video games to dentist appointment for a broken tooth from roughhousing with siblings.
Soong’s excuse for missing class is extraordinary: He’ll be the only 13-year-old trying to qualify for the US Open golf tournament in a 36-hole competition at Hillcrest Country Club.
“I didn’t expect to make it this far, so the next round is just learning and getting the experience,” he said. “I really should be in school that day.”
Some middle schoolers dream of snow days or beach days. Soong, at 5 feet 2 and 115 pounds, could play golf from morning to sunset.
“I love golf more than anything else I can imagine,” he said.
He shot 72 two weeks ago at Brentwood Country Club to become one of five qualifiers to advance to the final tournament on June 5 that will decide at-large berths for the US Open, which will be played June 15-18 at Los Angeles Country Club .
He’s never played 36 holes in a single day, so that’s going to be challenging enough.
His father is Chinese and his mother Japanese. The Burbank resident first started hitting a plastic golf ball in the backyard when he was 2. “I have loved the game ever since,” he said.
Twice he has broken windows. There was the time as a 5-year-old he shattered a glass door putting and another time at 8 he broke a window with an errant shot. Thankfully, he has graduated to practicing on courses, with his drives going as far as 280 yards.
“I work on putting a lot, so I feel that’s one of my strengths and I’m good off the tee,” he said.
In the qualifying tournament at Brentwood, he played with two players in their 20s. Imagine their surprise when they learned their partner was 13.
“They were shocked. You could tell by their facial expressions,” he said.
Asked about his chances to make the US Open, Soong said, “I think if I keep the right mentality and play the game I know, I can get close. I know I can give myself a chance.”
He’s not concerned about his age, size or strength.
“Golf is defined as one of those sports you can be small and not as strong as adults and be a lot younger,” he said. “If you keep your mental game, you’ll get close. I’m not going to outhit and outwit them, but I can outthink them.”
Some classmates know about Soong’s golf interests, but he said, “They don’t really care because they don’t like golf.”
Of course, if they see Soong on television, he’ll zoom up the popularity scale.
Imagine what would happen if Soong qualifies? He’d be doing interviews on ESPN and the Golf Channel. He’d also need another note from his mother, because the last day of instruction in middle school is June 16.
The superintendent of the Los Angeles Unified School District, Alberto Carvalho, knows about Soong’s golfing talent, so expect no problems for any absences. Who knows, maybe he’ll be in the gallery rooting for him.
Soong already knows how he’ll react if he makes it.
“I would probably be screaming at the top of my lungs,” he said. “That would be insane.”
This story originally appeared in the Los Angeles Times.