STATEN ISLAND, NY — When AJ Galli was just 2 years old, his dad handed him a baseball bat. But instead of swinging around to hit home runs, AJ used it as a golf club.
“So he bought me golf clubs and I just kept hitting the balls,” said the now 7-year-old Bulls Head player.
From then on it was history and AJ has been playing golf ever since. AJ went viral in early 2020 when a video of him playing golf was posted on Golf Digest’s Instagram page. It has over 170,000 views to date.
Next month, his hard work will pay off at a World Children’s Golf Championship.
His father, Steve Galli, said he called several Staten Island golf courses to find an instructor so his son could play golf at a young age. But generally, at age 4, AJ was considered too young to need regular golf lessons – until they saw him in action.
He has been training with golf instructor Frank Gargano for the past three years, hitting the driving range and playing courses around LaTourette Golf Course in Richmond.
“He’s here and probably the hardest working student I have, even compared to older adults,” Gargano said. “It’s really just because he loves her so much.”
Galli explained that the lessons have helped AJ improve his game, as he has no golf experience – although he is making an effort to learn. AJ joked that he played better golf than his dad.
“The best is when he [Frank] dating him, some of the best things are the way he behaves there, like his tag… He played my friends the other day – four grown men – and he beat all four of them,” said Galli.
Galli explained that he tries to get AJ to practice golf at least once a week in the summer – training with Gargano at least three to four times a month. In the winter, he can practice at Gargano’s instructional simulator company, Shot Shaver Golf, which offers interactive game modes for junior golfers. Even Galli installed a simulator in his Bulls Head home.
Throughout the summer, AJ also participates in tournaments and competitions.
This is what led him to qualify for the 2022 US Kids Golf World Championship, which will be held August 4-6 in North Carolina.
“You have to win or score well in the local tournaments and if you do well you get invited to the [championship]“, said Galli.
The Galli family, along with Gargano, will head south towards the Championship to support and cheer on AJ. The Championship welcomes golfers aged 5 to 12 on 10 championship courses, bringing together the next generation of golf stars to shine. It is the largest junior golf tournament in the world.
While AJ’s dad gets frantic as he watches his son compete, you wouldn’t know AJ was nervous.
That’s because it isn’t, Galli and Gargano explained.
“It’s extremely nerve-wracking to watch him play in these tournaments for me and he doesn’t seem bothered at all,” Galli said. “He doesn’t care how many people are watching… He doesn’t care if he gets a good shot or a bad shot. It is very balanced. I’m biting my nails shopping cart for him and I’m in shock from some of the shots he’s taken.
Besides golf, AJ also plays baseball and flag football.
But golf remains his favorite sport. And his favorite part?
That it is a sport that you practice individually.
“If you make a mistake, it’s always on you,” AJ said.
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