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11-year-old golf phenomenon in WNY for International Junior Masters

Xeve Perez of Augusta, Georgia is the youngest player to ever compete in the tournament at the East Aurora Country Club.

BUFFALO, N.Y. — After a year off because of the pandemic, the International Junior Masters is back at East Aurora Country Club this week. The tournament brings some of the top young golfers from around the world to Western New York each summer. They introduced a girls division for the first time this year, and delighting everyone on the course is the youngest player in the tournament's history. 

What 11-year-old Xeve Perez lacks in life experience, he makes up for in personality, and politeness, finishing practically every sentence he speaks with "sir" or "ma'am." 

The Augusta native is a true Southern gentleman and a star on the Georgia State Golf Association Junior Tour. He was ranked number one among 13-15-year-olds by the time he was nine. He regularly outplays high schoolers and even adults and has even drawn comparisons to a young Tiger Woods.

This is Xeve's first time in Buffalo, the birthplace of his ball of choice, by OnCore Golf.

"I gain a lot of distance off the tee that's for one, but mainly it's just it feels great on my putter and it's really accurate, ma'am," he said.  

Xeve is sharing the course with 79 other young men this week, and for the first time, eight young women. 

Williamsville Native Lily Zhang, a Nichols Student, is part of the inaugural girl's division. 

"It feels good, I can't believe there's this beautiful course right like 30 minutes away from my house. It's just to nice to be here and to be on my home turf," she told 2 On Your Side. 

Thirteen-year-old Amelie Phung made the trip from New York City to compete. 

"It's an honor to be here because I feel like I'm representing all the women out there," she said. "To be able to show up at a tournament that's been all boys for all this time. So I'm stoked to be part of such a historic event."  

It's an IJM tradition for the members of the East Aurora Country Club to host the players and their parents in their homes for the week. Xeve's host family is making sure that win or lose, he leaves with some mouth-watering memories of Western New York.  

"I went to I think it was Bar Bill I tried the Buffalo wings and they are so good," he said. "I got the honey barbeque ones, ma'am. Official review? 5 stars." 

Xeve won both his matches on Thursday, beating the top-ranked player in his tier, an 18-year-old. This course is open to watch the championship rounds on Friday free of charge.