The Masters, perhaps the best event annually on the golf calendar, was even better this year.
In addition to the azaleas, perfectly groomed Augusta National and Bubba Watson donning a second green jacket, the tournament embraced the next generation of golfers.
The inaugural Drive, Chip and Putt national finals were held at Augusta on the Sunday entering Masters week for 88 youngsters who made their way through local and regional qualifying. Adam Scott was on hand for the awards ceremony, Watson greeted competitors on the range and Jordan Spieth did the same on the practice green, according to a golfweek.com article.
Shortly after the winners of the 7-9 age division for girls and boys divisions were announced, their names went up on the leaderboard near the 18th green.
The Creek at Qualchan will be the site of a local qualifier for the second straight year. The date will be Sunday, July 13. Registration is available at drivechipandputt.com. Richland and Missoula are the next closest sites. The lone qualifier in Idaho will be in Nampa. Participants are limited to one local qualifier.
“We had about 160 that signed up last year and about 75 percent showed up,” Qualchan pro Mark Gardner said. “It was a lot of fun and the kids really get into it.”
More than 17,000 youngsters participated nationally a year ago. Organizers have added more qualifying sites and they anticipate more than 50,000 competitors.
“The head pro from Augusta came up last year to help us out for the day,” Gardner said. “They’re really committed.”
Drive, Chip and Putt is open to boys and girls in four age categories: 7-9, 10-11, 12-13 and 14-15. Participants will be grouped based on their age as of Sunday, April 5, 2015.
Entrants compete in all three skills, accumulating points in each. At Augusta, driving and chipping was held at the tournament practice facility. The first two stages of putting were held on the putting green near the first tee. The third and final putt was taken on the 18th green, roughly from the same spot Adam Scott drained his birdie putt on the 72nd hole en route to winning the 2013 Masters in a playoff.
Luci Li, who at age 11 recently became the youngest ever to qualify for the women’s U.S. Open, won her age division at Augusta.