Local 5-Year-Old Dacio Diaz Embraces a Love of Golf
Photographer / Jason Wetherholt
Dacio Diaz has a pretty good excuse for taking a few days off from his Center Grove preschool next month. He’s competing against the best young golfers in the country in a national tournament in Florida. Not bad for a kid who was never supposed to be a golfer.
Carlos Diaz, WTHR’s “Sunrise” morning anchor, grew up playing baseball, so he assumed his son Dacio would enjoy the sport too. Carlos’ wife Olga envisioned being a soccer mom. However, Dacio had his own ideas after picking up his first plastic golf club at 18 months of age.
“The bat and the glove went away and he only wanted to hold golf clubs,” says Carlos, who recalls going to Topgolf when Dacio was 2 years old.
Many kids that young would likely lose focus after hitting the ball for 10 minutes, but Dacio kept at it for four solid hours.
When it became clear that Dacio had something special, Carlos and Olga hired a professional coach, Crystal Morse, a 1998 Center Grove graduate who recently opened an academy at The Legends Golf Club in Franklin. Morse was thrilled to take a then-3-year-old Dacio under her wing.
“A lot of pros will wait for kids to be 7 or 8 years old before they coach them, but I love teaching young kids,” Morse says. “I think there’s a lot of opportunity there.”
Admittedly, Dacio, who just turned 5, is unlike most kids his age in the way he dials into what his coach has to say.
“He listens, but he also brings this energy and passion for the game that you usually don’t see in someone his age,” says Morse, whose primary goal in coaching is to make sure he doesn’t get burnt out on the game as he works to improve his skill set.
Carlos and Olga, who also have a 3-year-old daughter named Deyla, do the same, which is why they always ask their son if he wants to play golf. Usually the answer is “Yes,” but not always.
“Sometimes he’ll say, ‘No. I want to play with my choo-choo,’” Carlos says. “So that’s what he does. Because the minute you tell a child they have to do something, it’s no longer a game. Now it’s work.”
Morse does a great job of making the game fun without getting into the muddy waters of technicality at such a young age. For instance, she won’t tell Dacio to shift his weight. Instead, she points to his cleats that have Puma logos on them and tells him, “Show me your Puma.” That gets him to rotate his feet.
Carlos calls Morse “the golf whisperer.”
“She has this unique ability to speak to kids in their language and make things fun, and she doesn’t even realize she’s doing it,” he says.
Dacio was 3 years old when he played in his first tournament, the Pepsi Little People’s Golf Championships. On the fifth hole, Dacio played a flop shot and Carlos’ mouth dropped open.
“Where did you learn that?” he asked.
“On TV,” said Dacio, who finished in fifth place. The following year when he was 4, he won the whole thing.
Carlos has now watched his son play enough to know what he’s capable of, but friends still have to see it to believe that a boy his size can hit the ball so hard. That’s why Carlos has taken to wearing a GoPro Camera on his chest while caddying to capture Dacio’s 100-yard drives.
When he was 4 years old, Dacio played in a six-week tournament series of the Indianapolis Junior Golf Foundation, which is for kids aged 6 to 18. Each week of the tournament, Dacio finished in second place and was awarded a medal. On the second-to-last week, however, he had a bad first hole that knocked him out of contention. Carlos explained that he wouldn’t be getting a medal that week and asked if he was ready to go home, but Dacio said that he’d like to stick around to watch the awards ceremony.
“When the first-, second- and third-place winners were called, Dacio went over and gave each of them a hug,” says Carlos, his voice cracking with emotion. “For him, he’s not playing against the other golfers. He’s playing with the other golfers.”
This past fall, while he was still 4, Dacio was accepted to compete in the 6- to 9-year-old division of the Under Armour Junior Tour in Chicago. He played so well every week that he qualified for the Under Armour National Championship Tournament next month in Florida, featuring the best golfers in country aged 6 to 18. At 5, Dacio will be the youngest golfer in the field.
Even with all that success, he’s still playing to simply have fun – a mantra that has been instilled in him by his parents since day one.
“When he plays, we tell him to have more fun than any other golfer out there,” Carlos says. “On the golf course, you drive the ball a lot, but the most important drive is the drive home. That’s when we tell him how proud we are of him, every time, no matter how he played.”
Carlos is also proud of the fact that Dacio never lets his performance dictate his mood.
“Your mood is really the only thing you can control on the golf course,” Carlos says. “You can’t control the weather or what your swing will look like that day or whether you’ll putt well that day, but you can unequivocally control whether or not you’re having fun.”
It’s an attitude that rubs off on those around him. One day a parent approached Carlos and said, “My son played golf with your son last week, and my son talked about it all week. Thank you. He’s never had more fun than when he was on the golf course with your son.”
When Carlos and Olga tuck Dacio in at night, they ask him what the most fun thing was that he did that day. Nine times out of 10, the answer is golf, but that doesn’t mean they engage in deep conversations about the intricacies of the game. Instead they talk Disney, “Star Wars,” and normal kid stuff.
The family admits they didn’t really know what they were getting themselves into when they began to grow the love of the game in their young son, but they wouldn’t have it any other way. Child prodigy or not, they simply want Dacio to enjoy himself.
“Some people spend their whole life finding their passion,” Olga says. “Dacio was born with it.”
Follow Dacio Diaz at instagram.com/daciodiaz.