Geoff Heck received an odd request from his daughter, Anni, about eight years ago. She wanted to learn how to play golf — as a 6-year-old.
Heck happily and curiously obliged her. He brought Anni to a playground in Las Vegas — where they lived at the time — and she hit a few balls in the grass.
“And then I noticed that it’s not normal for somebody who’s 6 years old to actually have a golf swing and not a softball swing,” Dad said.
And so it began. The golf introduction led to lessons. The lessons proved Heck’s initial assessment correct.
“We put her in a couple clinics and we had the pros say, ‘Hey, she’s doing things we can’t teach, so you might want to think about having her do this competitively,’ ” he said.
She’s been competing on golf courses ever since. Anni, who lives now in Eagan, finished her eighth-grade season at Visitation this spring. She made a statement, tying for seventh place in the Class 2A state tournament.
Anni has made even greater strides this summer. She finished third in the Minnesota State Junior Girls Championship on July 9. She then captured the Minnesota Section Junior PGA Golf Championship on July 11-12 after birdieing two of the final three holes to win the tournament by one stroke. The victory qualified Heck for the National Junior PGA Championship, which will be held in Potomac Falls, Va., starting July 30.
Heck’s strong month of July could be a sign of even greater golf ahead. She credits Braemar golf pro Roger Fahrenkrug for her progression throughout the years. The two have been working together since she was in second grade. Fahrenkrug taught her to focus on her short game and become more target-orientated, which helped her block out nerves on the course.
She’s beginning to trust her game more and more.
“He’s been trying to teach me this for a while now,” Heck said of Fahrenkrug. “It’s finally just clicked in my head. Before, I was a bit more tentative. Now I’m starting to pick out my line and just hit the ball.”
As a youngster always competing against older girls, Heck needed a strong short game because she couldn’t hit the ball nearly as far as the others. As a result, she’s excellent around the green. It’s a big reason she scores low.
“If it takes her three to get on the green on a par-4, she’s going to make that putt,” her father said.
Now, as she matures, Heck finds herself catching up to her opponents off the tee. She’s also able to use her irons on her approach shots instead of her woods.
“Sometimes I’m outdriving people, which is really exciting for me,” she said.
Heck has traveled every year since she was 8 years old for the U.S. Kids Golf World Championship in Pinehurst, N.C. But this upcoming out-of-town tournament is the first one she has had to qualify for. Another sign of good things to come.
“She’s just very confident right now,” Geoff Heck said.
While Anni takes golf very seriously, she’s also having fun playing a game that she can share with her father.
“I guess I just kind of caught on to his love of the game,” she said.