THE small kid from Davao City who practically grew up in a golf course towered above the country's young golfers when he bagged the boys 11-12 years division crown in the recent 43rd Callaway Junior World Golf Championships in San Diego, California.

Rupert "Dodong" Zaragosa, barely five feet tall at 12, fashioned out the stunning victory with a difficult par-saving putt from 15 feet in the second hole of a sudden death to give Team Philippines its only title in the event featuring the world's top junior golfers.

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The putt nipped American Norman Xiong and instantly placed Dodong on top of the world, completing a triumphant journey that started at the fairways of the Apo Golf and Country Club.

It was at the scenic Apo course that Dodong learned the rudiments of the game.

In fact, the kid was born attached to golf. His mother Evelyn was a former umbrella girl and his father Boyet started out as caddie before becoming a top amateur player, and eventually emerging into a touring pro.

Dodong first made an impact in Philippine golf when he debuted in the 63rd Philippine Airlines (PAL) Interclub Golf Tournament last March in Bacolod City as a member of the victorious Canlubang team.

After a disastrous first outing with only 25 points, or 11-over par in stroke play, Dodong stunned the field with 35 points a day later that gave Canlubang the cushion for another big win in the annual event. His explosive performance helped Canlubang erase a two-point deficit, and it was smooth sailing from there.

"He is really a fighter," Dodong's mother Evelyn would later told Sun.Star Davao, illustrating the kind of character her son has on the fairways.

Indeed, Dodong does not give up easily. And the way he is playing at a very young age, he is really a star in the making for Philippine golf.