Dakota Montgomery has had just one coach: his dad. Larry Montgomery could never afford to hire a golf coach or pay for professional lessons for his sons Dakota, 8, and Cody, 14. Larry just studied the game, scouring for any instruction he could find in magazines or on YouTube videos. Then he taught it all to his sons. "It's with anything: putting, driving, hitting — you can teach them how to hold it, but they have to do it," Larry said. "Dakota's been doing that well."
"They feed off each other," Larry added. "There's a lot of things (Dakota) picks up from Cody. For the longest time, I instructed Cody, and I turn around he's doing it (to Dakota). Some was too advanced, but Dakota is picking everything up over time."
Dakota plays in events through Tampa Bay Junior Golf and the North Suncoast Junior Golf Association and usually is the top finisher in his age group. He outdrives his opponents, usually hitting his driver well over 150 yards. With junior tees set up at 200 yards or less, that's quite the advantage.
"I like golf because it's fun," Dakota said. "I like to be out on the course and just play. I like playing it more than other sports because I do really well. It's just what I like doing."
Dakota can play, too, though he can start a round poorly, just like any golfer. On June 8, he was playing at Sugarmill Woods Country Club in Homosassa in the weekly NSJGA event, and had a rough start, scoring a double bogey and then a bogey on the first two holes. After back-to-back pars, Dakota settled down and then birdied the last five holes and won his age group at 2 under (25).
Not only was it his best round in his young career, but he won his division by nine strokes.
"The last hole I didn't think I was going to make (a birdie) because I was in a divot," Dakota said. "I made a 10-foot putt to get the birdie, but I hit it hard. If it hadn't hit the back of the cup, it would've gone way past."
Dakota admits he needs work on his chipping and short game: "That's what I'm practicing," he said. Not only does he practice daily, but he also plays with the Hernando High golf team when their players practice.
There, he challenges those players, even beats a few. That's impressed his older brother.
"We've helped each other out during the time we've played," Cody said. "I think he looks up to me, too, but one day we'll be able to play each other. We do push each other to be better. I think it's pretty cool that we both have the same goals and that we can play together."
And despite being just 8, Dakota isn't overly big. Perhaps one day he'll sprout up like his brother, who's nearly 6 feet. But if Dakota keeps shooting under par, who cares how big he is?
"With golf, it doesn't really matter how fast you are or how big you are," Larry said. "When Cody turned 2 and Tiger Woods came onto the scene, that's when I realized you could start them off that young. The only thing I taught them was grip and ball position. That's what I've done."
Dakota does have lofty goals. He'd like to play on scholarship in college one day. Of course, Dakota wouldn't be a bright-eyed young golfer wearing a ivy cap if he didn't have aspirations to play on the PGA, as well.
So there's always something new to shoot for.
"That's what I want to do with golf," Dakota said. "I want to play professionally. I'd love that."
Community sports editor Mike Camunas can be reached at email@example.com or (352) 544-1771.