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Top Springstead High golfer thanks grandad for his start

BROOKSVILLE

Kevin Hubbard was frustrated.

The Spring Hill native was just 8 years old and playing golf for the first time. His grandfather, Jack Dunbard, bought him a Nike junior club set and dragged him out to the course.

"I was (frustrated). It was hard," Kevin said with a laugh.

Suffice to say Kevin's come a long way. Now, 17, he's not the only the No. 1 golfer at Springstead High, but he's been playing on the Illinois Junior Golf Association during the summer since 2005.

His grandfather also got him into that — Kevin bunks with his grandfather during the summer to participate on the tour — and this past summer, out of the six events he played in, Kevin finished in top five in five of them.

"He's very good," Dunbard said. "If he could've played the last two tournaments, he'd might have finished first. To see him shoot over 75 is very strange."

The 6-foot, 135 pound golfer shot a 75 at the IJGA Regional No. 19 on July 10 at the Plum Tree National Golf Club in Harvard, Ill., which was good enough for a first place finish.

But that doesn't shock anyone who's seen Kevin play. Dunbard calls him "a natural," but that's not just paternal bragging, calling Kevin the Rob Hobbs of Hernando County golf. Others, such as his coach in Illinois, David Davis, have also seen Kevin's pure, natural ability on the course.

"A classic, all-around player is what he is," Davis said. "He can do all aspects very well. While not an extraordinary long player (on drives), he can get out of trouble if he gets into it. That is something that really has gotten him to the top of the Illinois tour and made him a better golfer."

What seems to stand out, as Kevin's father, Steven, said, is the "natural" swing of Kevin's. Any coach, according to Steven, says that "it's smooth and perfect for the game."

Well, that's because Kevin also hones his natural ability.

"He does have an aptitude for working on swing mechanics," Davis said. "He has a lot of potential to take it to the next level and do well, as long as he tries to force out his weaknesses and improves his strengths."

All natural talk aside, Kevin is gearing up for his senior season at Springstead, a critical and important time to catch a college golf coach's eye in hopes of picking up a scholarship.

Kevin wants to stay in Florida for college, but also wants to play golf at the next level. Understandable since he's always looking for a more competitive edge, and, well, a game with his mentor.

"I can handle the pressure a lot more now," Kevin said of his golf game since playing on the tour. "There's a whole bunch of people you have to play against, so it's competitive.

"It's been 10 years now (playing golf) and I've had lots of practice and this is where I am with the help of my grandfather.

"He's my inspiration."

As far as inspirations go, as well as a proud grandfather, Dunbard has seen Kevin not only grow into a young adult, but a well rounded golfer. Dunbard even says Kevin is "sometimes a perfectionist," that "every shot needs to be just right."

However, it might be Kevin teaching his grandfather a thing or two.

"It's really encouraging for me now," Dunbard said. "I remember when I used to beat him by 10 to 15 shots. Now he beats me by that much.

"I remember when he hit (a drive) 200 yards for the first time and he was like, 'Wow. I can't believe I could hit it that far.' It just threw him back.

"But that's Kevin and he's been a pleasure to teach."

Community Sports Editor Mike Camunas can be reached at (352) 544-1771 or mcamunas@sptimes.com.

>>Fast facts

Kevin Hubbard

Age: 17

School: Springstead High

Grade: Senior

Hometown: Spring Hill

Did you know? Hubbard played in the Great Tampa Bay Classic in 2006, finishing sixth in the boys 14-15 division. He also came in second in districts in his junior season at Springstead, but has yet to make it to states.

Top Springstead High golfer thanks grandad for his start 08/19/08 [Last modified: Tuesday, August 19, 2008 4:30am]
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