The vivacious Gabriella DeGasperis offers solid advice for golfers of all ages.
When I first saw Gabriella DeGasperis, she was hitting pitch shots out of four-inch rough over a bunker to a tight pin on the practice green at Trump National Briarcliff. In the space of two minutes, she dropped five out of six shots within one-putt distance on the green. It was quite a performance for any golfer, but especially impressive for an 8-year-old.
Gabriella started early in the game. “When I was two years old, my parents gave me a set of clubs. They were pink,” she explains. “I started hitting on the grass at my house and I liked it.” At five, she started coming to the golf course with her father, Ron DeGasperis, who says he is an avid but average golfer. That sealed the deal for Gabriella. “I like spending time with my dad and I love to play with my friends.”
She also loves to compete. Gabriella jumped right into tournament golf not long after she started playing and racked up over 20 wins in various events in the 7 and under age group. Last year, she placed in the top five in the US Kids World Championship at Pinehurst. “Pinehurst was exciting,” she says, her big brown eyes lighting up with the memory. “It was so much fun when I played there. There were kids from all over the world and there were so many activities.” After holding the lead in her age group into the final round, Gabriella finished fourth in the tournament.
Gabriella DeGasperis also competed in the 2016 Drive Chip Putt competition and advanced from the local to the sub-regional and then the regional qualifier at The Country Club in Brookline, where she finished one putt out of the cup to just miss a trip to Augusta National. This year, she will play in a full roster of Met PGA Junior tournaments as well as competing in Drive, Chip, Putt, starting with the local qualifier at Apawamis CC.
Win or lose, she likes to practice golf almost as much as she likes to play, which says much for Judy Carlson, Director of Instruction at Trump National Briarcliff, who coaches the third grader. Gabriella plays or practices almost every day, including indoors during the winter months.
Any golfer would be well-advised to try some of Gabriella’s favorite drills:
- “I like to putt. When I practice, I look at the hole while I’m swinging. When you look at it, you get perfect speed.”
- “Judy tells me to play my worst ball. You hit two balls. Let’s say you hit one that’s not good. You have to take the good ball and put it next to the bad ball, then hit each one.”
- “Math and science are my favorites at school. I do a clock drill using math. Judy will say ‘chip five to seven’ so you imagine a clock where six is at the bottom and you swing back to five o’clock and through to seven o’clock and see how far it goes. Then she will say ‘chip four to eight’ and you do the same thing.”
She also has some wise advice about course management: “Sometimes, when you have a good hole you get excited. But then on the next tee shot you have to get focused again.”
Gabriella says her favorite professional golfer is Lydia Ko. “She’s young, she’s very nice, and she’s a great golfer.” Gabriella met the New Zealand phenom at the KPMG Women’s PGA Championship last year at Westchester Country Club.
Like any good competitive golfer, Gabriella has some specific goals: “This year I want to hit the ball 200 yards, or at least 180. I want to shoot 39 from the women’s tees.” Her best score to date is 44, so her chances are pretty good.