Junior golf star Daulet Tuleubayev has traveled far

Junior golf star Daulet Tuleubayev has traveled far

June 6th, 2013 by David Uchiyama in Sportlocal

Daulet Tuleubayev turned 14 years old Wednesday.

He's from Kazakhstan. He plays a mean game of chess, and he's already played in an event on the European Tour equivalent of the Web.com Tour.

He's shared a practice range with PGA Tour golfers Brandt Snedeker and David Love III because his American base is at Sea Island under the tutelage of professional gcoach Todd Anderson.

"It's not every day you meet somebody from Kazakhstan," joked WindStone head golf professional Jeff Craig, "especially in Ringgold, Georgia."

The impressive young golfer is in town participating in the Ringgold Telephone Company Junior Classic. He's not in contention after going through a major growth-spurt and a change of golf clubs.

But he's already the best amateur in the large central-Asian country bordered by Russia, the Caspian Sea, Tibet and China. He won the country's amateur championship.

"In my home country, for the whole country, we have seven golf courses and two of them are good," said Tuleubayev, whose country is about the size of all American states west of the Mississippi, excluding Alaska. "Luckily, both of them are in my city."

Tuleubayev began playing golf at the age of 8 when his father, a businessman in the oil industry, took him to the golf course. The game grew on him and he first traveled to the United States for instruction and competition in 2009.

"I don't want to brag, but I was among the first people to start coming over here," said Tuleubayev who didn't speak any English when he arrived but now is fluent. "There are some other [junior golfers] at Ledbetter Academy and other academies.

"Golf started in Kazakhstan about 15 years ago. Golf isn't a Kazakh sport. In America, there's more teaching and there's more competition."

Tuleubayev used to have Butch Harmon as his swing coach, but he's since switched to Anderson, the head professional at Sea Island Golf Club and the 2010 PGA Teacher of the year, who works with Billy Horschel and former Baylor School golfer Harris English.

"Obviously you're flattered when you meet them," said Tuleubayev, who played in the Kazakhstan Open last fall as an amateur. "I've got to know them a little bit and I'm feeling more comfortable around them. You feel like you're a part of something big just being there."

But it's not like home in Almaty, Kazakhstan.

"When I said 'Kazakhstan,' people think about Pakistan, or Afghanistan or any other country that ends in 'stan.' A lot of people don't know. It's a very big country, we are a very rich country and we are a very peaceful country with more than 100 nationalities living there."

But not many of them play golf like Tuleubayev.

"Hopefully we will have players on the world stage very soon," Konstantin Lifanof, a pioneer of golf in Kazakhstan, said in a European Tour article. "My ambitions are to have players for the Olympics 2020, so I hope Daulet will help this progress because the his time to be playing amongst the world's top players will be around 2020."

Contact David Uchiyama at duchiyama@timesfreepress.com or at 423-757-6484. Follow him on Twitter at twitter.com/UchiyamaCTFP.