• William Hartford, the 8-year-old son of Deputy U.S. National Military Representative to SHAPE Lt. Col. Charles and Rebecca Hartford, follows-through on his swing extends well past his left shoulder as he hitting several balls of the practice tees. The 8-year-old youth, who stands 3 inches over 4 feet, drives the ball 190 years and recently topped 50 other golfers, 90 percent of them adults, to claim the General Sir John Akehurst Bolf Bowl Championship. "

    Follow-through

    William Hartford, the 8-year-old son of Deputy U.S. National Military Representative to SHAPE Lt. Col. Charles and Rebecca Hartford, follows-through on his swing extends well past his left shoulder as he hitting several balls of the practice tees. The...

  • William Hartford, the just-turned 8-year-old and SHAPE Elementary School youth took top honors in the Gen. Sir John Akehurst Bowl Golf Championships held recently at the Hainaut Royal Golf Club. Hartford, who already aspires to join the Professional Golf Association tour in a little more than a decade, attended the U.S. Open Golf Championship at Torrey Pines in San Diego."

    Sweet Swing

    William Hartford, the just-turned 8-year-old and SHAPE Elementary School youth took top honors in the Gen. Sir John Akehurst Bowl Golf Championships held recently at the Hainaut Royal Golf Club. Hartford, who already aspires to join the Professional...

  • William Hartford chips up to the flag as part of his weekly practice. "

    Chipping

    William Hartford chips up to the flag as part of his weekly practice. "

  • William Hartford Gen. Sir John Akehurst Bowl Golf Champ

    William Hartford

    William Hartford Gen. Sir John Akehurst Bowl Golf Champ

CHIAfE+VRES, Belgium (July 10, 2008) - Who has the sweetest swing in the game of golf'

"Arnie," would yell his Army who lined scores of best golf courses in the world just to get a glimpse of Arnold Palmer's swing.

"Jack," would trumpet others from decades past as "Golden Bear" Nicklaus won more major titles than anyone - ever.

"Tiger" would yell many of today's golf fans, especially those who followed him around the Pacific bluffs of Torrey Pine in San Diego as the purportedly best in the history of the game notched his 14th major title just two months after knee surgery, outlasting Rocco Mediate on the 91st hole - with a torn tendon in his knee - on a historic playoff win. Woods is just four behind tying Nicklaus.

For those playing and practicing at the Hainaut Royal Golf Club near SHAPE one afternoon after school let out for the summer it was William Hartford.

"Who'" Some might ask.

Yes, William Hartford. Standing a mere 51 inches tall (130 centimeters) the just turned, 8-year-old stood out as he bested his fellow youth and adults to claim the General Sir John Akehurst Bowl Golf Tournament.

As the young Hartford takes a few swings on the practice tees, heads turn to watch his effortless swing drive the ball low into a mild wind about 170 yards. Every swing in total control, his feet rocking to its own pendulum, his arms blasting through the ball, yet his hands slowly pass over his left shoulder as he finishes his follow-through.

While a little shy when talking golf, he does offer a few tips to those hackers senior to him on the course. "I'd just show them how to chip - to bump and run and have more control," he said about offering some pointers.

"Then I would show them how to putt," he said.

From backswing to follow-through, his 59-pound frame is in constant control. It has been for his nearly 7 years of playing his favorite sport.

He purports his best play is six over for nine holes (42) and 11 over for a full round of golf (83). According to the United States Golf Association, 80 percent of the hackers, duffers and golfers hitting the courses today never break 100 for an 18-hole, par 72 course.

The son of Deputy U.S. National Military Representative to SHAPE Lt. Col. Charles and Rebecca Hartford, William, who attends British section of the SHAPE International Elementary School started playing when he was 13 months old.

His brother John, 3, has already taken up swinging the clubs as well. His sister, Kate, 6, chooses not to play, though, according to her father, she does putter around with the game. And George is only 9-months old and has a little trouble keeping up with his big brothers.

As he readies himself for another swing, his tongue sticks out just a little, a sign he is concentrating on his shot selection.

What's does he consider the best shot in his bag' "I don't have a favorite, I just like hitting the ball," he said.

"I do enjoy chipping the most."

His eyes brighten as he quickly smiles to discuss what he wants to be when he grows up... A professional golfer.

He will have to wait a while as his mother and father only let him practice "once a week" especially with school.

He already knows what it is like on the Professional Golf Association course. He played a little hooky with his father as they walked the fairways of Torrey Pines at this year's U.S. Open Golf Championship.

During his early vacation, William carded a few autographs. He picked up Phil Mickelson's and a few others, but he really wanted Tiger's.

Maybe in a decade or so, young Hartford might be living his professional golf dreams and Tiger might be on the prowling for an autograph.

Page last updated Thu July 10th, 2008 at 07:40