3 Players with Ties to NCGA Win Inaugural Drive, Chip and Putt at Augusta
April 7, 2014
Those that tuned into the Golf Channel early Sunday morning were treated to a pretty cool sight — kids lining up the same 20-footer Adam Scott holed on the 18th green at Augusta National last year, with a championship on the line.
The inaugural Drive, Chip and Putt Championship was a Sunday unlike any other at Augusta. There were 88 kids ranging from ages 7-15 who qualified for this new event, launching drives on the hallowed grounds of Augusta, cozying up chips on the treacherous Alister MacKenzie greens, and trying to hole historic and lightning-fast putts.
But the kids weren’t the only ones having a blast:
Adding to the scene was the unexpected interest of past champions and contestants. There was Darren Clark warming up on the range, stopping between shots to watch 9-year-olds drive it 200 yards. Jordan Spieth high-fived competitors rotating through the drive, chip and putt stations, appearing genuinely tickled at the sight of it all. Fred Couples leaned on his putter as only the 1992 Masters champion could, genuinely fascinated to watch young boys and girls trying to make putts. So did Mark O’Meara and Vijay Singh. Sprinkled throughout the stations or in the galleries were club members in their green jackets, including Comcast CEO Brian Roberts helming a microphone to announce players on the 18th green.
Best of all was defending champion Adam Scott, who happened to walk out of the locker room and right into the Boys 10-11 trophy ceremony. Scott shook hands with the group, then agreed to pose for photos. His Green Jacket was sent for. Scott ended up handing out trophies to the first and second place winners in each category, along with the overall trophy to 11-year-old Leo Cheng, whose father had packed a dark green sports coat that Leo dawned.
Three players with ties to the NCGA qualified for the championship — outlasting more than 17,000 participants — and all three beat the 10 other kids in their division to win titles.
Redwood City’s Lucy Li scored perfect 11s in driving and chipping, and added a 4 in putting to win the Girls 10-11 age group with 26 points. Li because the youngest player to reach match play at the U.S. Women’s Public Links last year at the age of 10. Li also became the youngest player to make the cut at the 2011 California Women’s State Amateur at the age of 9.
“This is Augusta National,” Li said matter of factly. “Everybody knows about this place. I had friends back home who were watching. This is like a big deal.”
Watch the Golf Channel interview Li after her win:
Auburn’s Natalie Pietromonaco won the Girls 12-13 age group by one, logging a perfect 11 in chipping to go along with a 9 in putting and 4 in driving.
“I’ve never had Fred Couples watching me putt before,” said Pietromonaco, who competes on the Junior Tour of Northern California. “So that was a new experience.”
“Can you imagine being 10 years old and to come here and putt on these greens?” Couples said. “For us as players, it’s pretty neat to see them out here.”
Watch the Golf Channel interview Pietromonaco after her win:
Patrick Welch holed the same famous putt on No. 18 that both Scott and O’Meara did to clinch the Boys 14-15 age group. Welch now lives in Providence, R.I., but won on the Junior Tour as a 9-year-old. He bagged an 11 in driving, a 9 in putting and an 8 in chipping for a three-point win, tied for the largest margin of victory in any of the eight divisions.
Watch Welch sink a putt on No. 18 at Augusta:
The event was such an initial success that more than 1,000 participants signed up to qualify for the 2015 championship in the first hour of registration Sunday. A cap of 50,000 (up from 17,500) has been put on local qualifiers, which are spread out over 256 host sites. There will then be 50 sub-regional sites, and 10 regional sites, with 80 kids reaching Augusta in the slightly tweaked format.
Poppy Ridge will be one of the local and sub-regional sites, with the regional finals in California hosted at Torrey Pines. Click here to find out more, or to register.