While most of the young golfers in last year’s Drive, Chip & Putt Championship at Augusta National Golf Club were competing in the event for the first time, experience paid off for seven others. They qualified for the third annual golf skills event for 7- to 15-year-olds for the second time in three years.
One of the returning competitors – 11-year-old Alexa Pano of Lake Worth, Florida – won the overall championship in the Girls 10-11 division. “I was so excited two years ago just to be here, and I’m more excited now to be able to relax and just play,” said Pano, who placed third in the inaugural competition in 2014.
The competition, which is conducted by the Masters Tournament, the PGA of America and the United States Golf Association, included 80 finalists from the United States and Canada. The 40 boys and 40 girls competed in four age groups: 7-9, 10-11, 12-13 and 14-15.
“For us, and I know for our partners at the USGA and PGA of America, it’s about inspiring other kids to become involved in golf,” said Billy Payne, the Augusta National and Masters chairman.
And for the competitors, the day was one they’ll never forget. Ty Griggs of Manteca, California, who won the Boys 12-13 competition, said he was thrilled to shake hands with Bubba Watson, his favorite golfer.
The remaining male champions were Stephen Robert Hernandez of Houston (ages 7-9), Christian Kim of Vernon Hills, Illinois (ages 10-11) and Michael Thorbjornsen of Wellesley, Massachusetts (ages 14-15).
The other female winners were Emerson Blair of West Point, Mississippi (ages 7-9), Kayla Sam of Anaheim Hills, California (ages 12-13) and Alyssa Montgomery of Knoxville, Tennessee (ages 14-15).
This year’s Drive, Chip and Putt Championship will be held at Augusta National on Sunday, April 2. Registration for the 2018 championship is underway at drivechipandputt.com, and local qualifiers begin in May.
By Betsy Gilliland