The inaugural Drive, Chip, and Putt Championship was held this weekend with great fanfare at Augusta National Golf Club. Say what you want but sometimes a monarchy is better equipped to effectively launch an advocacy program that is long overdue. The Green Blazers took it upon themselves through the Master’s Foundation with help of the USGA and the PGA of America to bring this to life.
Dignitaries of all kinds in attendanceEmbed from Getty Images
PGA of America organized local and regional national qualifying including close to 17,000 kids to whittle it down to 88 invitations for boys and girls in age groups of 7-9, 10-11, 12-13, and 14-15. Surviving those stages and getting the envelope in the mail inviting them to travel with their family to compete in the finals at Augusta had to be as good as getting an acceptance letter to the Ivy League school of their choice.
Murder’s Row…Boy’s 7 to 9 Year-Old DivisionEmbed from Getty Images
The final competition included three segments: Longest drive, best of two, short pitch, best of two, and cumulative putting proximity-three putts-6 feet, 30 feet, and then the15-footer that Mark O’Meara made to win the 1998 Masters. Unfortunately most of the kids were not watching live in 98 to get the 18-inch right-to-left read.
High five with the Green Blazer after the make on 18.Embed from Getty Images
Greens were running at Masters competition speeds. There were some great fist pumps from the kids who buried that one. It is not hard to imagine 15 years from now one of these kids, on this same green, making that gesture celebrating a win of the Big Green Enchilada.
Rich Lerner and Peter Jacobsen anchored the Golf Channel coverage of the event. They had just the right balance of informal hamish and honest respect in their comments about these special “young men and women” living a dream of competing at Augusta National.
Lots of family support along the way.Embed from Getty Images
Each kid had a personal bio. Included was favorite golfer, Rickie Fowler won hands down. Also they revealed what they would serve at a Master’s Champion’s Dinner, my favorite was the kid who would serve his mom’s Sloppy Joes and his aunt’s Green Bean Casserole. One kid from New England has named his hamster Keegan.
These kids are range rats with a live Golf Channel feed-they have lived and breathed the game from a very young age. Some of the interviews were priceless. An 11-year old after smoking his drive to win the the first stage driving competition for his age group said, “Feeling much better for the next two stages now that the nerves are settled down.” Older than their years?
The winner’s in the two older divisions-a future Tour star possibly among them?Embed from Getty Images Embed from Getty Images
The special bonus had to be meeting Jordan Spieth, Bubba Watson, Keegan Bradley, Adam Scott, among others prepping for the coming week’a Masters. The kids and their families will get badges to the Monday practice round and an opportunity to see their heroes in action on these hallowed grounds.
How cool to see your name on this official leader board at the end of the day.Embed from Getty Images
Every competitor showed grace and maturity walking off the 18th green at the end of their competition making eye contact and shaking the hand of the Master’s and PGA officials who made all this possible. Kudos to the three organizations and Golf Channel for etching this competition indelibly on the golf map for many years to come.