After a bizarre, court-ordered ban from golf, a preteen golf prodigy in suburban Washington, D.C., has returned to the sport, and has picked up right where she left off.
In the spring of 2016, Judge Jeanette Irby of the Circuit Court of Loudoun County, Va., ruling in a custody case involving the girl’s parents—Michael Vechery v. Florence Cottet-Moine—ordered that the couple’s then-10-year-old child “shall not be permitted to play competitive golf for one year.” Along with specifically prohibiting entry in tournaments, Irby also ruled that during the ban, the child could have “no lessons with any golf pro with the exception of the father” and can “play no more than one round of golf per week for five hours with putting and practice.”
Before being ordered off the course, the girl, whom Deadspin is choosing not to name, had won 11 of the previous 12 tournaments she’d entered. Most of the wins came in nine-hole, age-group events in the D.C. area sanctioned by Kids Golf USA. But in November 2015, playing in an all-ages field and in the first competitive 18-hole round of her life, she shot an 84 on a 5,500-yard track to win the women’s club championship at Algonkian Golf Course in Sterling, Va.
Judge Irby did not ask the child about her thoughts on playing golf before issuing the ban. And after issuing it, the judge declined a request from Deadspin to explain her ruling. Several golf industry sources told Deadspin at the time of Judge Irby’s ban that they had never heard of a custody decree that included a prohibition on the sport.
Both parents admit the custody fight, now in its eighth year, has gone on too long and gotten too ugly, but those are the only things they seem to agree on. Florence Cottet-Moine, the youngster’s mother, said that although she did not ask for the golf ban, she supported the judge’s ruling; Michael Vechery, the girl’s father and primary golf coach, asserted the judge’s ruling was unfair and was intended to punish him. Vechery asked various Virginia courts to modify Irby’s order and strike down the golf ban, but his appeals were denied.
But the ban expired on May 2, 2017. A week later, the kid, now 11, entered an age-group tournament sanctioned by US Kids Golf at Poolesville Golf Club in Montgomery County, Maryland, and won. She went on to finish first in six of the next seven state and local youth tournaments she entered, plus one second place finish. Over Labor Day weekend, in a regional tournament at Seaview Golf Resort in New Jersey, she finished just one stroke off the lead, behind a Canadian who is the reigning US Kids Golf world champion.
It’s far too early to crown the kid a future Tigress Woods. But the winning binge supports the critiques of golf experts who the father has contracted to improve his daughter’s game. Vechery took the kid to the Greenbrier, a West Virginia resort and golf haven, for a lesson with Lee Trevino, who serves as golf pro emeritus there. “The swing’s perfect. I wouldn’t touch that swing with a 10-foot pole,” said Trevino after the lesson, which Vechery videotaped. “For an 11 year old, she’s got as good a swing as I’ve seen.”
And Kris Tschetter, a former LPGA tour member who has worked with the youngster, told the Loudoun County court via a sworn deposition that the kid was “a phenom,” and was already good enough to play at the college level.
“Does she have the talent to be a national level golfer?” Tschetter was asked during the deposition.
“Absolutely,” she answered.
“You don’t want to mess with that,” Tschetter said under oath, before the judge messed with it.