Village School’s Kaila Elsayegh Golfs at International Level

By Sarah Stockman
Palisades News Reporter

Kaila Elsayegh is an energetic nine-year-old. She just finished third grade at the Village School, cooks dinner for her family twice a week, and wants to be an electrical engineer when she grows up. She is also a rising star in the youth golf world, competing on an international level.

Kaila picked up her first golf club at the age of seven. Her mother, Dr. Teresa Merced, had gifted Kaila’s father, Dr. Ashraf Elsayegh, father/daughter golf lessons at Westlake Golf Course for Father’s Day.

Dr. Ashraf Elsayegh holding his daughter’s Hole-in-One trophy and Kaila who was the local tour champ in her age group.

Dr. Ashraf Elsayegh holding his daughter’s Hole-in-One trophy and Kaila who was the local tour champ in her age group.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

During the first lesson, the instructor was greatly impressed by Kaila’s natural swing. By the third lesson he was completely ignoring Dr. Elsayegh.

“The first practice was great,” Dr. Elsayegh said, laughing. “The second practice the instructor ignored me, and by the third practice he asked me to stop.”

After that, Kaila was hooked.

She currently has what she describes as 2.5 coaches—two full-time coaches and one part-time coach—with whom she works two days a week. She practices between 12 and 14 hours a week during the school year at the Mountain Gate Country Club, about a 30-minute drive from her home in the Highlands.

Every weekend Kaila plays one or two tournaments as part of the Los Angeles Local Tour of the U.S. Kids Golf Foundation, which she joined in March 2015.

Kaila also plays basketball, just started tennis, and is teaching herself how to play the guitar. She takes school very seriously and thinks of it as her top priority. Most of her homework is done en route to golf practice or a tournament.

“[Kaila] doesn’t know how to veg,” Dr. Merced said.

The youngster’s hard work has paid off. After joining the Los Angeles Local Tour, she remained in the top 10 for the spring, summer, and fall Tours.

Last August, Kaila was invited to the Venice Open in Venice, Italy, which is the European Golf Championship. There she placed second, with a score of three over par, in the Girls 8-and-Under age group after playing one round a day for three days.

On the Spring 2016 Local Tour, Kaila won five out of the seven tournaments, including the championships on May 22 with a score of one over par at Buenaventura Golf Course. Most recently, Kaila finished third in her age group at the 2016 California State Invitational at the Rio Hondo Golf Club.

One of the biggest challenges for Kaila is the fact that she’s female. Although youth golf is very popular, the Local Tour is still very much male-dominated.

“There are 10 girls and 50 boys in each age group,” Kaila said in reference to the Local Tour.

This approximation holds true for the professional world of golf as well. According to multiple sources, there’s a four-to-one male-to-female ratio of golfers. This disparity between the sexes also plays out in tournament earnings, an issue that has surfaced along with the gender wage disparity in professional soccer and tennis.

Because of this, clothing companies tend to cater to Kaila’s male counterparts, making it hard for her to find appropriate golfing clothing. Dr. Merced has written numerous letters to clothing companies about this issue.

Kaila doesn’t let this problem hold her back. She is very competitive and tries to outplay the boys in her age group as well as the girls. Her best 18-hole score on a regulation golf course is a four-under-par at the Upland Hills Golf Course.

Both of Kaila’s parents are doctors, but they make sure they are available to drive Kaila to the course and support her at her tournaments. Her mother, who practices internal medicine at UCLA, serves as Kaila’s caddy. Her father is a pulmonologist and ICU specialist at Cedars-Sinai, and makes up Kaila’s cheering squad. Kaila also has a three-year-old brother who drives her crazy because he tries to copy everything she does.

Kaila hopes one day to join the Ladies Professional Golf Association (LPGA), although not until after she finishes college. She would also like to play golf in the Olympics as the sport is returning to the Olympic schedule this summer.

For now, Kaila is looking forward to the World Championships on August 4-7 in Pinehurst, North Carolina. Last year she place 19th overall, but this year she’s aiming for the top three in her age group.

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