Out of the Sandbox and onto the Green: Little golfer makes big hit

AMANDA MORRISON / NNY GOLF
Declan Sullivan, 19 months, focuses on the ball while teeing off in his backyard.

BY: Norah Machia in NNY Golf
Declan Sullivan’s golf swing has captured nationwide attention. He has been featured on the ESPN and Golf Digest websites, and even the Today Show on NBC, which aired a family video of the young Watertown boy knocking over Pringles cans with shots from across the room.

      Not bad for a youngster who hasn’t even turned two years of age (his birthday is in August). Declan’s fascination with golf started when he was in diapers. Literally. It was only a few months after learning how to walk that he started learning how to swing. His passion for the game just keeps growing, said his parents.

         “We have a room full of other toys, but all he wants to do is hit golf balls,” said his father, A.J. Sullivan, who casually showed his son how to first swing with a toy club when they were just horsing around. “His swing evolved quickly,” he added. “Now he hardly ever misses.”

        In fact, father and son watch televised golf tournaments together on a regular basis. Declan “starts clapping when someone makes a difficult shot,” Mr. Sullivan said. The youngster appears more interested in watching golf games than cartoons.

    Mr. Sullivan and his wife, Meredith, purchased a small set of clubs for Declan from “The Littlest Golfer,” a company that specializes in children’s sets. Declan is still too young to write his name, and his parents weren’t sure if he was right or left-handed until he started swinging his mini-size golf clubs (he’s a lefty).

     His mother began sharing videos with friends and family members showing Declan hitting targets and sending the ball off long distances. Mrs. Sullivan later set up an Instagram page, “LittleLeftyDeclan,” which includes videos and photos of the little boy who has demonstrated a natural ability for the game.

      But Mrs. Sullivan said she did not anticipate the videos of her young son to go viral in the sports world and beyond. It started when a video of Declan hitting golf balls was picked up by the “Barstool Sports” website, which reposted it for millions of its followers. From there, it was picked up by ESPN and Golf Digest, and even a radio station in Toronto, which set up a Skype interview with the family.

     But the biggest surprise may have been when Mrs. Sullivan received a phone call from a family member asking “Was that Declan on the Today Show this morning?” A clip of Declan knocking over the Pringles cans with his perfect shots even earned praise from host Carson Daly. “I actually had no idea it was going to be aired on the show,” said Mrs. Sullivan.

      “It was surprising how it all steamrolled,” said Mr. Sullivan. “I’m not big on social media and I don’t even post on Facebook.”

      Although his natural abilities and skill at such a young age has been astonishing to watch, Declan’s passion for golf did not come as a total surprise to his parents. Mr. Sullivan, who works in the construction field, and Mrs. Sullivan, a pharmacist, are both avid golfers.   

    While pregnant with Declan, Mrs. Sullivan decided physical activity would probably help pass the time until the birth of her first child. The couple played golf together while they were waiting for Declan, who was 10 days overdue, to arrive. “We played every day for those ten days,” said Mrs. Sullivan. (Declan was not actually born on the golf course, but in the hospital after doctors induced labor).

    For now, the family is trying to take all the attention in stride. “Who knows, maybe he will earn a college scholarship someday,” said his father. “But for now, we’re just trying to keep it fun for him.”