Young Oviedo golf phenom Bella Dovhey is dominating her competition and earning the attention of the game’s most famous figures
If you aren’t familiar with the name Bella Dovhey, it is time to get on board.
Legendary golfer Arnold Palmer knew who she was and so does NFL Hall of Fame wide receiver Jerry Rice. Even the all-time leader in major championships on the PGA tour, Jack Nicklaus, is on a first-name basis with the Oviedo resident. More about those three later.
Bella has created a firestorm among world golfing circles by winning four individual major championships and one team title this year alone.
Get this: she routinely hits her driver 160 to 180 yards – 200 if she gets a good roll on the fairway, according to her father. And she has already made a hole in one on a 100-yard par 3 with a 6 iron. Now let this sink in for a minute: Bella is only eight years old.
Enough of the statistics. You just need know that this precocious third grader isn’t a flash-in-the-pan. At least not in the eyes of her coaches – her father Mike Dovhey and Cheryl Anderson, a professional golf coach who has worked with Bella since December.
“I’ve known since she was a toddler that Bella is more coordinated than practically any other kid her age,” Mike says.
Plus, Bella had two teenage brothers at home who pushed her to excel when they played together in the backyard.
“I had to work hard playing with them,” says Bella. “Mom would just let me score while playing soccer, but not my brothers. I had to work for what I got.”
That early competitiveness helped Bella to develop athletically, according to her dad.
“By the time Bella was four, she was scoring 10 points a game in soccer,” Mike says. “And she wasn’t happy if the other team even scored one goal.”
Coach Cheryl concurs.
“She just hates to lose,” says Cheryl, who has been coaching golf for 25 years. “And she learns from her mistakes. She grows rather than worry about a bad shot.”
Bella’s thirst and enthusiasm for the game of golf is astounding, according to Cheryl.
“When I met her, she knew who Bobby Jones was,” Cheryl says. Bobby Jones, of course, founded Augusta National, where the Masters Golf Tournament is played. “Bella separates herself from other golfers by her love of the game.”
Cheryl says the youngster has a “golf IQ of an 18-year-old,” whose only discernible drawback is learning to shift her weight from the back foot to the front during the swing, something most golfers struggle with, regardless of age.
“If she makes a mistake, she will try to figure out how to fix it,” says Cheryl. “Once, her ball got lodged in a tree, and after the tournament, Bella went back and tried to figure out how to get the ball out of that tree.” The exercise ensured Bella could avoid a penalty if the same situation occurred in the future.
Cheryl gives a lot of credit to Bella’s father for the young lady’s development.
“Mike has done a tremendous job with that young girl,” Cheryl says. “He studies how to teach her, and they have a great relationship on and off the course.”
Bella’s mother, Pearl, isn’t surprised by her daughter’s success.
“She works hard and is very focused,” says Pearl, an emergency room nurse at Florida Hospital. “A lot of other young golfers are just as talented, but Bella puts a lot of time and effort into what she is doing. She also likes to read, draw, and play games on the computer.”
Just so you know, Bella isn’t solely focused on golf. Her interests also include academics (straight As), karate (already a brown belt), soccer, football, basketball, and SpongeBob (yeah, the one with square pants).
Plus, Bella’s dad is teaching her how to ride a skateboard.
The relationship between Bella and her father apparently is at the heart of what makes Bella tick. When Mike started playing golf, Bella tagged along with him. Soon she was learning to chip and putt, and it wasn’t long before she started playing along with Mike’s foursomes. The Doveys now count Tuscawilla Country Club as their home course.
“They get along great from what I can tell,” Cheryl says of the daddy/daughter pair, “and he’s a great caddy for her during tournaments.”
Now back to the three aforementioned famous athletes: Arnold Palmer, Jerry Rice, and Jack Nicklaus. Magazine publisher Terrie Purdum was so impressed with Bella’s outgoing personality, she wanted Bella to be a part of her Winter Springs-based publication, Southern Golf Central.
“I saw a young lady with this amazing personality,” Terrie says. “I felt like she needed to get out in front of the media, and I wanted to work with her.”
Figuring Bella wouldn’t be intimidated by the big-name stars, Terrie came up with the idea of having Bella interview celebrities and write articles about them for the magazine.
“She is a natural, and her personality shines through,” Terrie says.
Bella’s favorite interview so far has been Arnold Palmer, who passed away in September.
“He was the greatest golfer ever,” Bella beams.
While it may be too soon to tell, young Bella Dovhey might one day join him in the hallowed circles of golf stardom. Stay tuned!
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