That is the best way Palm Aire Country Club’s Alana Kutt, 13, could describe her reaction to taking the Girls 12-14 trophy at the U.S. Kids Golf 2019 Gulf Coast State Invitational, held May 25-26 at Diamondhead Country Club in Diamondhead, Miss.
Kutt shot 153 (77-76) over the 36-hole tournament to win by two strokes over West Point, Miss., native Emerson Blair. Usually a come-from-behind player, Kutt this time led by five strokes after round one and was able to ease into her victory. It felt different, she said, but in a positive way.
In what was supposed to be a transitional year, the win gave Kutt validation. It reminded her of what she knew all along: She belongs at the top of leaderboards.
The win was Kutt’s second major title, following June 2018’s U.S. Kids Golf Georgia State Invitational, where she shot 155 (78-77) to win the same division by five strokes. Kutt has been playing with older girls, even adults, as much as possible since then. In between her wins, she had three top-five finishes (two runner-ups) in the Premier Junior Golf Tour’s Girls 15-18 division. Kutt said she learns more from them than she does competitors her own age, including things like body language.
“They do a good job of keeping their emotions even-tempered,” she said. “They do not get mad about a bad shot.”
She also often practices weekdays at Sara Bay Country Club in Bradenton, which has hosted Symetra Tour events in the past, for more of a challenge. Kutt, who is homeschooled, also spends a lot of time on the road, traveling to tournaments with her father, Matt Kutt, in his Mercedes Sprinter. She also accompanies him on business trips for his employer, Total Gym. (“Our suitcases are always laid open,” Alana Kutt said.) The travel can get tedious, she said, but certain stops make it worth it. She would rather walk the streets of Washington, D.C. and play in a tournament there than read about it in a textbook.
Kutt’s play has caught the eye of colleges despite her age. She has been invited to a Michigan State women’s golf camp in mid-June, where she will stay in the university’s dorms and meet the team and coaches. It’s not officially a recruiting trip — there are rules against that, Kutt explained — but it will give her a chance to see the campus and experience what Michigan State’s players experience.
It will be Kutt’s first such camp, though likely not her last. She can hit her driver 250 yards, she said, and has been keen to improve her short game. Kutt will spend her travel time scouring YouTube for professional golf tips when not doing homework. She is dedicated to putting in the work and learning beyond her physical skills, a necessary skill for young golfers looking to play in college or beyond. Her maturity in that regard has impressed her father.
“She has always had a spectacular game,” Matt Kutt said. “On the course itself, what we would call course strategy, she has done a tremendous job. This last championship, she managed the course great. She took into account that you cannot have your driver every single hole. You have to use irons and hybrids off the tee on Par 5s, putting the ball in the fairway. Maturing and playing with the older girls has been a tremendous experience for her.
“She has the same work ethic. She’s the same grinder. (She) gets out there and practices and gets after it. I think she thought she could do it before. Now she knows she can.”
Ryan Kohn is the sports editor for Sarasota and East County and a Missouri School of Journalism graduate. He was born and raised in Olney, Maryland. His biggest inspirations are Wright Thompson and Alex Ovechkin. His strongest belief is that mint chip ice cream is unbeatable.