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Teenage golf phenom expects to turn heads at the US Open qualifying men’s final

The youngest. The shortest. The lightest.

Jaden Soong will be all of the above Monday when the 13-year-old from Burbank, California, who stands 5-foot-2 and weighs 115 pounds, joins more than 500 other golfers in final qualifying for the men’s US Open.

He hits the ball up to 280 yards with his driver.

“I’m expecting some people to be a little shocked and surprised,” Soong told USA TODAY Sports.

But the kid and his prodigious golf game are no longer a secret.

On May 15, during the first stage of qualifying for the US Open – set for June 15-18 in Los Angeles – Soong sank a 12-foot playoff putt and celebrated with a Tigeresque fist pump. He had just become the youngest player ever to advance to the second and final stage of qualifying for the US Open.

On Monday, depending on how he plays in a 36-hole competition at Hillcrest Country Club in Los Angeles, Soong could become the youngest player ever to secure a spot in the US Open. The current record is held by Andy Zhang, who was 14 when he played in the 2012 US Open.

Jaden Soong

Jaden Soong

This year’s US Open will be played at the Los Angeles Country Club, less than 30 miles from where Soong lives with his parents.

“That would definitely be really cool and exciting,” said Soong, a seventh grader. “I’m not really putting too much of that into it, because I kind of want to go in there with no expectations.”

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What is Jaden Soong’s source of power?

During the 2021-22 PGA season, Tiger Woods had an average driving distance of 310 yards – about 30 yards longer than Soong’s top drive. But Woods, at 6-1 and 185 yards, is almost a foot taller and 70 pounds heavier than Soong.

“It’s pretty cool because golf is one of those sports where (size) really doesn’t matter,” Soong said. “I mean, it definitely does matter, but not as much as like baseball, football, or something. It’s just really how strong mentally you are.”

But how does he generate so much power with his driver?

A growth spurt that led to muscle spasms helped, according to Soong’s father, Chris.

In February 2022, at the recommendation of an orthopedic spine surgeon, Soong stopped golfing for three months and worked on his core muscles, according to his father. At the time he was driving the ball 210 to 220 yards.

When Soong started playing again, he was driving the ball 230 to 240 yards, his father said.

“I was like whoa,” Chris Soong said upon seeing the benefits of fitness training.

In December, Soong began working with a fitness coach and, according to his father, his driving distance continued to climb.

Costs add up ‘very quickly’

In May 2017, when Soong was just 7, his father videotaped him crushing balls with a driver at Knollwood Country Club in Granada Hills in California.

Jaden Soong

Jaden Soong

Chris Soong posted the video on Soong’s Instagram and said the video now has been viewed more than a million times – including by golf industry decision-makers.

The video led TaylorMade to provide Soong with golf equipment and Nike to provide apparel, according to his father. But Soong is receiving no funds for travel or to cover the cost of a swing coach who doubles as a mental coach, a fitness coach and a putting coach.

“It adds up very quickly,” said Chris Soong, a sales manager for Kellogg Company whose wife, Sandra, is an operations manager for a commercial real estate services firm.

“You obviously try to dream big,” he added. “But she is much more the realist and just kind of keeps everything grounded. I’m more of, hey, the whole purpose of dreaming big is you never know, right?”

‘Patience and humility’

Chris Soong said he was introduced to golf at 13 by his grandparents.

“It taught me patience and humility,” he said, noting that he often played with his 4-foot-10 grandmother. “Here she is hitting it right down the middle of the fairway and I’m this young kid who’s hitting the ball really far, yet she still beats me.”

Although he grew to love the game, Chris Soong said his skills never approached those of his son, who began hitting with plastic golf clubs at the age of 2.

There are dozens of videos on Jaden Soong’s Instagram account, which includes almost 27,000 photos. Videos of him playing baseball are available from his father.

“I had him learn how to bat lefty since he was 5 so he didn’t mess up his golf swing,” Chris Soong texted.

Jaden Soong said he expects to be playing competitive baseball this summer and notes that he enjoys video games and watching highlights of his favorite golfer, Tiger Woods.

“So just being a kid on the side is also great,” he said.

So will be having an excused absence from school. Jaden Soong will be scheduled to tee off at 11:55 am ET, when he would normally be in PE with his classmates at Thomas Starr King Middle School in Los Feliz.

“I guess I’m getting a lot of physical work in on Monday,” he reasoned.

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Jaden Soong’s aims for US Open history, shocking golf fans on the way