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Eight-year-old twins Freya and Mila Snook qualify for major tournament in San Diego
It’s a long drive from Bally Haly golf club in St. John’s to San Diego, Calif.
But it’s one that a pair of sisters — twins — nailed recently by qualifying for the IMG Junior World Championships to be held July 8-12.
The eight-year-olds will compete in the Girls 7-8 age division.
Freya Snook qualified for the world championships by winning the Girls 7-8 division at a national tournament in Cambridge, Ont., in early May where she shot a seven over par 43 for the nine-hole event. Freya was accompanied by her sister Mila, who also played great golf, scrambling to card a 53.
Mila thought that was the end of the road for her until she learned on Wednesday she had also been awarded a spot at the IMG Junior World Championships. The girls will represent the Canadian Junior Golf Association’s Team Canada.
The Snook twins attend Beachy Cove Elementary in Portugal Cove-St. Philip’s and enjoy playing soccer, swimming, piano, basketball and attending Brownies when they are not working on their golf swings.
“What an amazing accomplishment for both girls to compete (nationally) and for Freya to win,’’ Mike Curran, general manager of Bally Haly Country Club in St. John’s said.
“Freya and Mila will be the first of our junior members to ever participate at a world junior event.’’
The twins have been working diligently with Bally Haly assistant professional Jake Burt to hone their skills. Burt has been training both girls for the past year and will be making the trip to San Diego as part of the Snook entourage, along with Brenda and Brent, the girl’s mom and dad, and several other family members.
This week, standing on the range on a rare sunny, warm Thursday, both girls worked through their bags of clubs, sending shot after shot down the practice range.
Despite their diminutive frames, they were hitting drives in the 150 to 160-yard range and had pinpoint accuracy with their mid-irons.
Those are lofty accomplishments for both girls, and impressive for players of their size. Their techniques and lines are good, they align themselves well to the shots they are attempting, and can both hit a draw and a fade, better than players four times their age.
“I would have liked to have played a bit better in Ontario,’’ Freya said. “I think I could have chipped and putted better.”
“I drove the ball well, but needed to be better around the greens,’’ she added.
A confident eight-year-old, Freya said she is going to the world tournament with the goal of winning, but also to have fun. She said if she stays calm and approaches it as fun, she will be fine.
Mila is hoping to redeem herself in San Diego by playing up to what she considers to be her best abilities.
“I didn’t drive the ball good in Ontario. So, I have to do that better,’’ Mila said.
“I want to do a lot better and even beat (Freya) if I can. Most of the time she beats me, but I will do my best to try and get by her,’’ she added.
Either way, the girls are each other’s biggest fan. They cheer for each other unless — they look at each other and chuckle — the win is on the line. Then all bets are off.
Also included in their entourage will be their grandmother, Linda Colbourne, who brought the girls to practice Thursday.
“I am ecstatic and thrilled about what they are doing,’’ Colbourne said. “I am going to cheer them on and no matter what they place, they have already won to me,’’ she added, her face beaming with pride.
“I think Freya’s biggest strength is her drive, always working, even at her age, you give her a small change and away she goes,’’ assistant pro Jake Burt said.
“There isn’t anything bad in her game. Her technique is good. I’ve been coaching her for about three years, back when she started in the Linksters program. It has been a pleasure to watch her develop over that time.’’
Freya hits her driver upwards of 160 yards.
Burt said both girls have worked in their garage at home on a regular basis and he gets to see them once a week during the winter to make sure they are doing the correct things to improve their swing.
They also spend some time at the Techniplex in Pleasantville hitting balls.
“I think with Mila, playing like she did in Ontario and not being at her best, knocked her down a bit, but she jumped back up and went to work to get better,’’ Burt said.
“Both girls are nothing but fantastic to coach. You tell them something and they just go and do it. Mila also pays attention to what she is being taught, grasps it and makes sure she works to get better.’’
The field in San Diego is not set just yet but Burt said he was told there would be between 50-70 entries in the Girls 7-8 division.
But one thing is for certain, Freya and Mila are ground-breaking players.
“They are the first players ever from Newfoundland and Labrador to participate in this event,’’ Burt said.
“That is a special thing and these girls, they are great and will represent our flag well.’’
Both players have great role models to cheer for. On the LPGA side they like Smith Falls, Ont.’s Brooke Henderson, and on the men’s side, Tiger Woods.
They have even copied signature moves from several players they like — Freya chokes down on her driver like Henderson and Mila has Ricky Fowler’s follow-through, complete with the high elbow finish.
“I want to get at least one birdie while I am away,’’ Freya said.
They will play three rounds of golf (54 holes), so she will have plenty of opportunities to achieve that goal.
Mila wants to finish a lot higher in the standings than she did in Ontario.
To get prepared, the girls will continue to practice and also will go to Nova Scotia on June 9 to participate in a U.S. Kids Worlds qualifying tournament in Chester, about an hour from Halifax on Nova Scotia’s South Shore.
Bally Haly is hosting a fundraiser on June 15 to help get the girls to San Diego. The event will feature an evening of celebration and live music with acts that include Sherri Breen and the Fowler Brothers of Abbey Road fame.
Freya, Mila and their family will attend the early part of the evening.
Tickets are $25 each and can be purchased at Bally Haly or at the door the night of the event.