Mia Clausen skis black-diamond slopes. She speaks fluent Mandarin, an ode to her mother’s Taiwan heritage. She’s a straight-A student, an avid swimmer and plays a mean game of Ping-Pong.
The 11-year-old from Carlsbad is also one heck of a golfer.
Said her coach, Jason Puterbaugh, “She’s got a lot going for her for an 11-year-old.”
Going into today’s final round of the girls 11-12 division of the IMG Academy Junior World Championships, Clausen sits in a tie for 21st place out of 89 golfers who started the tournament. Clausen has shot back-to-back, 3-over 75s at The Heights Golf Club in Rancho Bernardo
She sits 11 shots off the lead of Canada’s Clairey Lin.
Clausen’s father, Karl, is the director of research and development for irons, wedges and putters at Cobra Golf. Karl plays to a 14.4 handicap. Mia’s mother, ChiungWei Shu, sports a 15 handicap.
So it was hardly surprising that Mia, the family’s only child, was swinging a club at 2. She was in group lessons by 4, individual lessons by 5, playing tournaments by 6.
She was 8 the first time she beat Karl, initially on an executive course, then a regulation layout.
“I was just proud of her, happy that her game improved to that level,” said Karl.
Added Mia, sitting at a greenside lunch table after Tuesday’s round, “I just wanted to get ice cream after.”
Clausen is a two-time San Diego Junior Golf Association player of the year in her age group. That’ll likely climb to three titles later in the year. Playing up in the 13-14s, Clausen leads the the division. In eight tournaments, she has finished in the top four seven times.
At a lithe, 5-feet-7, Clausen bombs drives 220 yards in the air. But the favorite club in her bag is her putter.
“I didn’t like it today,” she joked after Tuesday’s round. “I couldn’t make anything.”
Puterbaugh raves about Clausen’s game, her attitude and her parents’ golf perspective.
“I can’t imagine too many 11-year-olds who are longer (off the tee),” Puterbaugh said. “She can scramble if she gets a little crooked sometimes with her driver. She has a great wedge game, a great attitude and head on her shoulders.”
Puterbaugh has seen parents who put too much pressure on their kids, be it in pursuit of a college scholarship, fame, money or whatever. He says that’s not the case with Mia’s parents.
“She always wants to play,” said Puterbaugh. “She never looks like she’s burned out or tired of playing. She’s very driven, and I think it’s self-driven to do well. She just happens to be in a situation where she has two loving parents who support her well.”
Said Karl, “We just try to keep her grounded, not place too much emphasis on the results in golf. Just go out and play the best you can. Have fun with it.”
Mia says her best score on a course was 6-under. Reflecting her innocence, she added, “But I don’t remember where it was.”
She’s having a blast at Junior Worlds. One of her favorite parts of the tournament is check-in day, when players exchange gifts, often pins and stuffed animals.
Two of the favorite gifts are stuffed elephants from a Thailand friend.
During a 4-hour, 59-minute round Tuesday, Clausen very much looked like a kid playing a game she loves. During waits for the group in front of her, Clausen plopped down on the grass in the middle of the fairway, sitting in the shade of the umbrella attached to her pull cart.
Said the 11-year-old, “I just didn’t want to stand all day.”