AUGUSTA, GA. — Before her trip to Augusta National for the inaugural Drive, Chip and Putt contest, 11-year-old Redwood City golfer Lucy Li told the San Francisco Examiner she's “always happy” when she plays golf.
On Sunday, she was likely filled with a little more joy than normal.
Li was among eight winners from different age groups in the skills challenge sponsored by Augusta National, the USGA and the PGA of America leading up to this week's Masters. Li won the title in the girls 10-11 division.
This was a Sunday unlike any other at Augusta National.
Sunday typically is quiet at the home of the Masters as players arrive to start preparing for the first major of the year. Most of them couldn't take their eyes off the group of 11 finalists, boys and girls, from each age division as they made their way from the practice range (driving and chipping) to the practice green, and then the final putt on the 18th hole.
“Can you imagine being 10 years old and to come here and putt on these greens?” Fred Couples said. “For us as players, it's pretty neat to see them out here.”
Golf Channel broadcast the event live. Parents watched nervously. The kids exchanged high-fives. The winners hoisted their trophies under the big oak tree by the clubhouse.
This is what Masters chairman Billy Payne had in mind when he announced the Drive, Chip and Putt contest a year ago to help stoke more interest among kids.
More than 17,000 children signed up for qualifiers in 19 states and the District of Columbia, boys and girls from four age groups — 7-9, 10-11, 12-13 and 14-15.