80 earn spots at Augusta National for Drive, Chip and Putt Finals

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Published: Oct. 5, 2022 at 5:00 PM EDT
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AUGUSTA, Ga. (WRDW/WAGT) - Eighty junior golfers representing 29 U.S. states and two Canadian provinces have earned an invitation to Augusta National Golf Club to compete in the ninth annual Drive, Chip and Putt National Finals, to be played April 2 before the start of the Masters Tournament.

Conducted in partnership with the USGA, Masters Tournament and PGA of America, Drive, Chip and Putt is a free, nationwide youth golf development program open to boys and girls, ages 7-15, in four age divisions. The three-pronged competition tests the skills essential to playing the game – accuracy in driving, chipping and putting.

Results of the 10 regional qualifiers – the third and final stage leading to the 2023 National Finals – yielded nine returning competitors, including the now three-time finalist, Alexandra Phung.

Returning finalists are:

  • Jace Benson (2022 National Finalist), of Morgan, Utah
  • Martha Kuwahara (2022 National Finalist), of Northbrook, Ill.
  • Natalie Martin (2022 National Finalist), of Park Rapids, Minn.
  • Aadi Parmar (2019 National Finalist), of Selma, Texas
  • Luke Parsons (2018 National Finalist), of Salley, S.C.
  • Alexandra Phung (2019, 2021 National Finalist), of Forest Hills, N.Y.
  • Paige Radebach (2019 National Finalist), of Webberville, Mich.
  • Leo Saito (2022 National Finalist), of Hilo, Hawaii
  • Keita Yobiko (2022 National Finalist), of West Covina, Calif.

Local qualifying for the ninth season of Drive, Chip and Putt began in May and was held at 342 sites across the country this summer. No more than three top scorers per venue, in each of the four age categories in separate boys and girls divisions, advanced to subregional qualifiers in July and August. The top two juniors in each age/gender division then competed at the regional level in September and October. Regional qualifying was held at 10 facilities around the country, including several U.S. Open and PGA Championship venues.

The top finishers from each regional site’s age/gender divisions – a total of 80 finalists – earned a place in the National Finals at Augusta National Golf Club, which will be broadcast live on Golf Channel. All local, subregional and regional qualifiers were conducted by the 41 Sections of the PGA of America, with PGA Professionals providing support at each facility hosting a qualifier.

Notes from regional qualifying:

  • At Scioto Country Club, Paige Radebach of Webberville, Mich., earned her second trip to Augusta National after sealing her victory with a win in the putting discipline. “I’m really excited. I was pretty young the first time, so I’m hoping I can enjoy the experience a little bit more than before,” said Radebach (Girls 12-13). Meanwhile, following the withdrawals of two fellow competitors in their respective age divisions, Elijah Lemmon (Boys 14-15) of McCordsville, Ind., and Lyla Hampton (Girls 14-15) of Grosse Pointe Park, Mich., entered the event as alternates and went on to secure their spots in the National Finals.
  • Jake Sheffield of Knoxville, Tenn., was in fifth place overall in the Boys 14-15 age group heading to the putting portion at Quail Hollow Club – but he proved that “golf is just a game of inches sometimes” by sinking all three of his putts from distances of 6-, 15- and 30-feet. Sheffield’s perfect putting put him atop the leaderboard by a one-point margin, finally earning him a trip to the National Finals after seven previous attempts. In the Girls 12-13 age division, Narah Hope Kim of Duluth, Ga., and Victoria Davis of Holly Springs, N.C., were tied at 127 points after all three disciplines. “I was really nervous,” said Kim, who edged ahead for the overall victory in a playoff. “But it was really fun.”
  • With his win at Oak Hill Country Club, Joseph Morinelli is headed back to where it all began. Born in Augusta, he wakes up every morning in Crozet, Va., to a map of Augusta National Golf Club and a huge sticker in the shape of the Masters flag on his bedroom wall. He gradually climbed the leaderboard at the regional qualifier, finishing first in putting with 70 points and 161 points overall in the Boys 14-15 age division. “I was pretty nervous, but knew I had to settle to make the putt,” he said. “I was just doing the math in my head of how many points I had to make up. I had to make the 30-footer and get 25 points, and I did it.”
  • Competing at the Drive, Chip and Putt National Finals has always been a goal for Maya Palanza Gaudin of East Falmouth, Mass.: “When I first saw this tournament on TV and when I first competed in Drive, Chip and Putt, that is what brought golf to life for me.” With consistent performances at TPC Boston across driving, chipping and putting in the Girls 12-13 age division, the Ethiopia-born Gaudin is on her way to Augusta National for the first time. Alexandra Phung of Forest Hills, N.Y., however, is now getting ready for her third appearance at the National Finals, having previously competed at Augusta National in 2019 and 2021. Phung won the Girls 10-11 division in dominant fashion, winning each category for 127 total points, a 43-point lead over the second-place finisher.
  • It was a special hometown win for 9-year-old Jacob Eagan of Castle Rock, Colo. With family and friends by his side at Castle Pines Golf Club – and, as his dad noted, his family home within sight – Eagan captured the win in both chipping and putting to claim overall victory by a 29-point margin. “It’s just amazing. It’s such a special place,” he said. “Driving down Magnolia Lane has been the biggest dream so far in my life. It’s so cool to finally accomplish it.” In the Girls 14-15 division, though Saydie Wagner of Alpine, Utah, arrived about 20 minutes before her tee time and didn’t warm up, she went on to hit her longest drive ever— 300 yards—to win her age group and her first trip to Augusta National. On competing in her last year of eligibility, Wagner said she “had to get it.”
  • Carter Cline of Sammamish, Wash., started putting around his living room at the age of 2. Now 9 years old, Cline took second place in the putting skill and first overall at Pebble Beach Golf Links to become a Drive, Chip and Putt National Finalist (Boys 7-9). His close friend from Everett, Wash., Jairo Sanchez-Godinez, will be joining him in Augusta, having won the Boys 10-11 division. “It’s so very cool that we both made it,” Sanchez-Godinez said. “Hopefully, I win it.” In the Girls 10-11 age group, Caroline Cui of Redwood City, Calif., gradually rose atop the leaderboard from third place in driving to second in chipping to first in putting, her favorite discipline. With a total of 140, Cui scored 24 more points than the second-place finisher to secure her first trip to the National Finals.
  • At Desert Mountain’s Outlaw Course, the heat didn’t bother Leo Saito (Boys 12-13), of Hilo, Hawaii, and Keita Yobiko (Boys 14-15) of West Covina, Calif. With first place finishes in their respective age groups, both punched their tickets to the National Finals for the second consecutive year. Yobiko, whose 160-point total score was the event-best, said, “It’s hard to qualify for Augusta National, but I just love this tournament.” Meanwhile, with her pup, Mondo, in attendance, 11-year-old Hana McGarry of San Diego, Calif., took first in driving and putting to win the Girls 10-11 division with 131 total points, 24 points clear of the next-best score.
  • For the second consecutive year, Martha Kuwahara of Northbrook, Ill., is headed to Augusta National. At Medinah Country Club, she took first place in the Girls 14-15 age group thanks to powerful drives (58 points) and expert chips (60 points). “I really want redemption from last year,” Kuwahara said, looking ahead to her second National Finals appearance. “This year I feel I can do a lot better. I was nervous today, but my first drive, I whacked it 268 yards.” In the Girls 12-13 division, Anna Bell of Poplar Bluff, Mo., edged out the co-runners-up by one point for a total of 116. She comes from a competitive golf family – including three older sisters who play collegiate golf – and is forging her own path after punching her ticket to Augusta National. “I’ve probably watched Drive, Chip and Putt every year,” Bell said. “I don’t know what it’ll be like, but I’ll be excited when I go.”
  • Viktoria Germain of Houston won both the chipping (45 points) and putting skills (60 points) to build a 32-point lead over the second-place finisher and claim victory in the Girls 10-11 age group at Champions Golf Club. When it came time to receive her medal, Champions Golf Club co-founder Jack Burke Jr., who won both the Masters and PGA Championship in 1956, presented her with her hardware. “I know he won the Masters,” Germain said. “It was really cool to meet him, and I’m really excited about going there.” Aadi Parmar of Selma, Texas, who qualified for his second Drive, Chip and Putt National Finals, shared the sentiment: “I’m even more excited this time,” adding, “It’s the best place I’ve ever been.” In a close competition in the Boys 14-15 division, Parmar’s consistency across all three disciplines put him atop the overall leaderboard, with a total of 104 points.
  • At The Bear’s Club, competitors persevered in the face of challenges presented by Hurricane Ian. “It’s been a lot of emotions because we had to leave our home on Monday because of the hurricane,” said Jolie Pastorick (Girls 14-15) of Sarasota, Fla. “It impacted my preparation because there was no way to practice. We kept having to switch hotels. It was a lot of movement for our family.” In her fifth attempt to reach the National Finals, Pastorick earned redemption, nearly holing two chips, sinking her second putt and leaving her third just an inch from the hole. With 143 total points, she secured her spot at Augusta National for the first time. Luke Parsons (Boys 14-15) of Salley, S.C., scored 156 total points – the highest score of the qualifier – to earn his second trip to Augusta National. Looking back on the 2018 National Finals, he said he was “focusing on practicing and getting a good warmup.” In 2023, “I will try to enjoy the experience a little more.”

All scoring at the local, subregional and regional qualifiers is based on a 25-point-per-shot basis, with each participant taking three shots per skill. Each participant accumulated points per shot in all three skills (maximum of 75 points per skill = 25 points per shot x 3). The overall winner in each age category was determined by the participant with the most points accumulated across all three skills (maximum of 225 points = 75 points per skill x 3).

The point system is based on incremental distance measurements, rewarding accuracy and distance in the drive skill, and proximity for chipping and putting skills.

At the National Finals, one champion will be named from each age/gender division. Each finalist will be scored based on a 30-point system, offering the player with the best drive 10 points, the player with the closest cumulative chips 10 points and the player with the nearest cumulative putts 10 points, in each separate skill. The highest total composite score will determine the winner.

For more information on Drive, Chip and Putt, visit drivechipandputt.com, follow on Twitter @DriveChipPutt and on Instagram @drivechipandputt.

About Drive, Chip and Putt

A joint initiative founded in 2013 by the Masters Tournament, USGA and the PGA of America, Drive, Chip and Putt is a free, nationwide junior golf development program aimed at growing the game by focusing on the three fundamental skills employed in golf. By tapping the creative and competitive spirit of girls and boys ages 7-15, Drive, Chip and Putt provides aspiring junior golfers an opportunity to play with their peers in qualifiers around the country. Participants who advance through local, subregional and regional qualifying in each age/gender division earn a place in the National Finals, which is conducted at Augusta National Golf Club the Sunday before the Masters Tournament and broadcast live by Golf Channel. For more information, please visit: drivechipandputt.com.

About the Masters Tournament

The Masters Tournament Foundation, inspired by the enduring philosophies of Masters Tournament founders Bobby Jones and Clifford Roberts, is committed to promoting golf’s domestic and international development through financial investment and active participation in initiatives aimed at preserving the traditions of the game and sharing its virtues. For more information about the Masters, visit masters.com.