Mar 2, 2022,12:30am EST
Erik Matuszewski | Contributor
When Xeve Perez was two years old and visited Toys ‘R Us with his parents, he’d immediately head to the section with the plastic golf clubs. During some of his earliest days on the golf course, he’d play three holes, be given a bottle and then take a nap. Before the age of 3, Xeve won a closing tournament at a camp he was initially told he was too young to attend. Instead of cartoons, Xeve grew up watching instructional shows on Golf Channel.
Now 11, the youngster nicknamed “X-Man” has won more than 250 golf tournaments over the past eight years, has made appearances on national morning shows and is regarded as one of the top junior golfers in the nation.
XEVE PLAYS THE VERO X1
With his teenage years still ahead of him, Xeve also might be the youngest golfer to team up with a major golf brand, establishing a long-term partnership with OnCore Golf. The company has been supplying young Xeve with its golf balls for years, ever since he shared a picture of himself on social media and tagged OnCore at age 5 1/2.
But the new formal partnership is about more than just golf balls. It’s about allowing Xeve to pursue his passion and helping his parents, Miguel and Christine, make that dream a reality. Miguel spent 33 years in the military as an Army Ranger and didn’t really even get into golf until Xeve fell in love with the game. Christine homeschools Xeve from a conversion van the family bought to enable them to travel to golf tournaments throughout their home state of Georgia and beyond.
“When you have a kid who is as talented as him, you often see parents being overbearing and making that kid’s dream their dream. I can honestly say Xeve just loves golf,” said OnCore co-founder Bret Blakely. “The passion is within him. The personality, the kind-hearted nature, the gentlemanly approach that he takes to not only the game, but the relationships with everyone he meets, its authentic. We’ve become truly like family with the Perezes. It’s that much of a bond between us. Now it’s getting to the point where this kid is getting to the age where I can’t wait to be walking the course with him and seeing him compete at higher and higher levels.”
OnCore’s founders first met with Xeve at age 5, when all the company had – and was known for – was a hollow metal core ball. They traveled to Georgia after seeing a pint-sized Xeve holding up one of their balls and saying how much he loved it. When they got to Georgia, they met a kid with a pure swing beyond his years. They also met a youngster who exuded genuine kindness beyond his years, with personality and politeness that caught them off guard.
“It was one of those things where I said, `Wow this kid is special. No matter what he does,’” Blakely said. “At that stage, we hadn’t developed a tour ball. Nothing about the relationship at that time was considering golf. We didn’t even know if the company would exist the next year, let alone 6 or 10 years later. It was more about there was a really nice bond immediately and we were excited to watch young Xeve’s journey and see if it was something he was going to pursue.”
It wasn’t until years later that Blakely and the OnCore team approached Miguel about lending more support. Yes, Xeve continues to use OnCore’s golf balls, currently playing with the Vero X1, but the partnership allows for much more – from making sure the family can travel to tournaments to ensuring he’ll be able to play in practice rounds at the competition venues instead of showing up cold. OnCore and the Perez family didn’t disclose specific terms of the partnership.
While Miguel and Christina hear inevitable questions about whether Xeve is too young to have a deal like this in place, they try to tune out the outside noise.
“It’s just a passion every day,” Miguel Perez said. “We just watched the movie The Greatest Game Ever Played for the 600th time because he loves it. So how can you say it’s enough? Most of the time, we have to say to him if you don’t do this or don’t clean your room, we’re taking the clubs away. With that type of passion, how can it be too much? It’s the only thing he wants to do. We’re going to have to put the ear muffs on and continue helping him and continue to nourish him. Luckily, we have some help from great people. This is about Xavier and his dream.”
Miguel’s military background might evoke similarities to another former wunderkind’s dad. But really the only time Miguel played was when his Army buddies forced him to. So, how did Xeve get interested in the game and get his dad to start playing too? It didn’t hurt that their house at the time was on the tee box of the 6th hole of a golf course in Louisiana.
“I’d see everyone out there hitting balls and just having a good time. I became mesmerized by the game. I just fell in love with it, sir,” the outgoing Xeve says during a conversation peppered throughout with ‘sirs.’
To say Xeve is serious about the game is an understatement. He has a long-game coach in Charlotte and one of his short-game coaches is in Alabama. After his homeschooling finishes around 1 p.m., he’ll often play and practice golf until sundown. He usually competes against teenagers and adults rather than kids his age, including regularly playing in a men’s group, and in 2020 he was the Georgia State Golf Association Player of the Year in the 12- to 14-year-old division at the age of 10.
Last year, Xeve became the youngest golfer ever to compete in the International Junior Masters, advancing to the semi-finals after beating two highly-ranked juniors (ages 17 and 18), and finished in third place. The tournament was held at East Aurora Country Club outside Buffalo, New York, not far from OnCore’s headquarters, so Blakely and other members of the OnCore team were there in person to see his drives of 280 to 285 yards down the middle of the fairway. They also got to see Xeve’s infectious personality rub off on the other participants.
“A lot of these other kids, they’re very uptight. They’re nervous, they want to play well, they’re laser focused in. Xeve is focused, but he goes about it a different way,” says Blakely. “By the second hole, these kids that were to themselves, not saying anything, Xeve has them smiling. He’s making them better because he’s loosening them up. Every hole that we went to, you’d see other kids call out, ‘Hey Xeve, how are you playing today?’ That’s special. To be able to turn your competitors into companions in the midst of competition, I don’t know there’s many people that can do it.”
While polite and kind — he’s always removing his hat and shaking hands with new people he meets — Xeve is also a fierce competitor. The family’s overflowing trophy case provides ample evidence of that.
And if you ask Xeve about a bad day on the golf course, he’ll tell you he’s never had one. That’s certainly not for a lack of days either.
“The only problem we have is that when he wakes up, Xavier is already ready to go. Christine and I look at each other sometimes and say, ‘Okay, whose turn is it today to take him out on the course?’” Miguel says with a chuckle. “He is ready every morning and he has an agenda on what needs to get better. A lot of times we force him, yeah, but we force him that he’s not going to play golf, that he’s going to go do something with the family.”
Xeve Perez, at age 11, joins an eclectic mix of OnCore Ambassadors, a roster that includes 86-year-old and nine-time major champion Gary Player as well as NFL stars Josh Allen and Ezekiel Elliott, billionaire financier Charles Schwab, golf trick-shot artist Tania Tare, and professional golfer Eric Compton.
Blakely says he knows other companies may eventually come along with “life-altering opportunities” for Xeve and his family that OnCore likely wouldn’t be able to match. He’s had those discussions with Miguel, but right now is more focused on providing the chance for young Xeve to continue chasing his dream of becoming a professional golfer. After running through his daily schedule, the youngster shifted gears to talk optimistically of one day waving to family and friends as he walked down the fairways at Augusta National, not far from the family’s home in Georgia.
“If anything were to ever change, we’d be fine with it. But we feel very lucky,” Blakely said. “Because of the relationship we’ve built, they know we are not in this to make a buck off Xeve. We’re in this to make sure Xeve has every opportunity to succeed and become whoever he wants to be, whether in golf, in college, whatever it may be. There are a lot of good golfers who just don’t make it because they just don’t have the correct opportunities given to them.
“It’s been really fun to be a small part of Xeve’s journey.”
Read the Original Article: (Forbes)
Matuszewski, E. (2022, March 2). 11-year-old golf phenom XEVE Perez signs brand partnership with Oncore. Forbes. Retrieved March 2, 2022, from https://www.forbes.com/sites/erikmatuszewski/2022/03/02/11-year-old-golf-phenom-xeve-perez-signs-brand-partnership-with-oncore