A publication of the Kentucky Center for Public Service Journalism

A prodigy on the links, 9-year-old Tatjana Andracenko has impressive swing, lofty goals, and loves playing

By David Kubota
NKyTribune reporter

Tatjana Andracenko has competed in more than 80 golf tournaments, three Junior World Golf Championships, and she can drive the ball 220 yards.

But the most amazing thing about her golf game?

She’s only 9 years old.

The young golf star lives in Independence and is currently on track to compete in the U.S. Kids Golf World Championship at the beginning of August.

The event will take place in Pinehurst, North Carolina, with more than 100 competitors from around 50 countries and nearly every state.

Tatjana Andracenko represents Kentucky at the U.S. Kids Golf Tournament. (Photo courtesy of Ivan Andracenko)

To top things off, Tatjana is bilingual. The youngster and her father, Ivan Andrecenko, speak to one another in Serbian on the course to keep things between the two of them and away from the competition.

She began swinging a club when she was only 2 years old and competed in her first tournament at the age of 5.

Recently, she’s competed in the Junior World Team Tournament, where she and a partner finished 8 under par and then a solo win in Louisville saw her shoot for 12 under par.

In the past, she’s been named the U.S. Kids Golf Player of the Year for the Columbus section. A lack of major tournaments in Kentucky forced her to travel around the Midwest for competitions.

Doug Martin is the University of Cincinnati men’s golf head coach and has taken young Tatjana under his wing. They frequently collaborate on how she can become the best golfer, and he acts as her swing instructor.

“She’s bright beyond her years in golf,” he said. “She’s definitely a student of the game.”

Having spent 10 years in the PGA, Martin believes that Tatjana’s continual growth will put her into the LPGA.

“There’s no question, in time, if she continues on this path she will be good enough,” he said.

On average, Tatjana practices four times a week, mostly making appearances at the Golf Ranch in Burlington. Tournaments take place from April through September, and the summer break allows her to compete and practice without taking time away from school.

In the fall, she’ll enter the fourth grade at River Ridge Elementary School in Villa Hills.

Ivan Andracenko is no stranger to intense competition, having previously played professional soccer. He began to work toward becoming a professional golfer as well until his daughter was born.

“When she was born, it became all about her,” he said.

He hopes that Tatjana turns golf into a professional career and goes on to play in the LPGA. However, should she decide to drop the sport entirely, he’ll have no problem with that decision. He credits a positive outlook and an early sense of maturity as the reason his daughter succeeds.

“She loves to play and compete,” he said, “You have to have a certain discipline to compete in golf and you have to be mentally strong.”

The summer started grimly for Tatjana. At the end of May, she suffered a broken finger after being struck by a ball while playing at school. Weeks later she competed in the Kentucky PGA Junior Tour.

Tatjana poses with her favorite pro golfer, Paula Creamer, who is also known as “The Pink Panther.” (Photo courtesy of Ivan Andracenko)

Her ultimate act of resolve happened during the Junior World Championship when she was just 7. Tatjana was stung by a bee while on the fairway and had to play with a swollen finger.

To make things worse, the tournament was then put on a two-hour rain delay.

“That was my proudest moment,” her father said. “She still shot 1 under that day.”

Having met many golfing stars, none has been more important than Paula Creamer. Also known as “The Pink Panther,” Creamer has a reputation for always wearing pink while competing. Tatjana’s favorite color is also pink, and she can be easily found in tournaments due to her bright pink outfits.

When she turns 11 in two years, Tatjana will be recognized by the American Junior Golf Association. This will open new doors in terms of coaching, competition, and sponsorships.

Outside of golf, like most kids her age, Tatjana enjoys spending time on YouTube and playing outside. Aside from being a golf professional, she aspires to be a vlogger and is often grabbing a camera and practicing.

Women’s golf has grown in popularity in recent years, and it was recently announced that the National Women’s Amateur Championship would take place on the famous Augusta course starting in 2019.

Tatjana and her father hope that one day her skill and drive will take her to Augusta.

David Kubota is a Scripps Howard Foundation intern at the NKyTribune this summer. He is a student at the University of Kentucky School of Journalism and Media.

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