Northwest competitors finish strong
by Vartan Kupelian
Four young players from the Pacific Northwest qualified to play in the national finals of the second annual Drive, Chip & Putt Championship, which was held Sunday, April 5 at Augusta National Golf Club, at the beginning of Masters Week.
Jessica Ponce of Portland finished fifth in the Girls 14-15 age division, while Samuel Pyon of Happy Valley, Ore. tied for second in the Boys 14-5 division, finishing just half a point out of a tie for first. Ben Stone of Spokane finished tied for third in the Boys 12-13 division, and Logan Medcalf of Lynden, Wash. finished tied for second place in the Boys 7-9 division (he had tied for first, but lost in a 3-way playoff).
Morgan Goldstein posted the first ever perfect score Sunday in the Drive, Chip and Putt Championship at Augusta National Golf Club.
Goldstein, 13, an eighth-grader from Las Vegas, became the first participant to win all three disciplines as she claimed the title in the Girls 12-13 division. Her two drives were measured at 233.4 and 243 yards. She holed her first 16-yard chip, and the second finished 4 feet, 1 inch from the cup. She also holed the second of her two putts – from 15 feet – to win comfortably. On the longer 30-foot putt, she finished 2 feet, 10 inches.
“I was really nervous,” Goldstein said. “I was shaking. When I stepped out there and I hit my first drive, I was nervous. But my second one, it was natural and it started to come to me. It just felt amazing to be out there. My chipping was really good, and it was me, the hole and the ball.
“Chipping is the best part of my game. Putter and driver are pretty good, too.”
The second Drive, Chip and Putt Championship produced close finishes in many of the eight divisions – Boys and Girls 7-9, 10-11, 12-13 and 14-15.
The winners were greeted by Masters champions, among them Gary Player, Mark O’Meara and Trevor Immelman, who shared stories and offered advice.
“To be able to have something like this to shoot for at such a young age is such an opportunity,” said Immelman, the 2008 Masters champion. “Someday one of these kids may win the Masters and say, ‘The first time I came here was for the Drive, Chip and Putt Championship.’ What would that be like?”
Player, a three-time Masters champion, told the young competitors to work hard on the short game because that’s where champions are made.
Jay Leng demonstrated that his short game was solid. Leng, of Rancho Santa Fe, Calif., won both the chipping and putting skills to overtake the longer drivers in the Boys 7-9 division. His combined distance from the hole on two putts was 2 feet, 2 inches.
Other winners among the boys were: Jake Peacock of Alpharetta, Ga., 10-11; George Duangmanee of Fairfax, Va., 12-13; and Toby Wilson of Bartlett, Tenn., 14-15.
Wilson rallied from a poor drive to win both the chipping and putting competitions. His two putts finished a combined 37 inches from the hole.
Matt Camel of Greenwich, Conn., hit the longest drive – 281.5 yards – after missing the grid with his first attempt. He finished fifth in the Boys 14-15 division.
Others winners among the girls were: Effie Perakis of Glenview, Ill., 7-9; Lydia Swan of North East, Pa., 10-11; and Alexandra Swayne of Maineville, Ohio, 14-15.
Swan won the chipping competition on her way to the title in a group that included last year’s Girls 7-9 division champion, Kelly Xu.
Perakis, who made the 30-foot putt, relied on balance in the three disciplines to post her victory.
“I was very nervous,” she said, before giving a thumbs up.
In the Boys 12-13 group, two finished tied for the top spot with 20 points and three others were tied just one point behind. In the event of ties, the putting rank was the tiebreaker.
Duangmanee, who tweeted his participation in the Drive, Chip and Putt Championship, was greeted by Augusta National member Condoleezza Rice after his victory. He capitalized on a strong driving performance – 260.7 yards his best – to claim the title.
For complete results, photos, and information about qualifying for the 2016 Drive, Chip & Putt Championship, visit www.drivechipandputt.com.
(Thanks to the USGA for this article.)