Henry Augenstein’s favorite Masters moment came a few years ago when his favorite golfer, Phil Mickelson, gave him a fist bump as he walked off the 18th green.
Perhaps the 15-year-old from Columbia will get a chance to give a famous golfer a fist bump of his own Sunday when he competes in the inaugural Drive, Chip and Putt National Finals at Augusta National Golf Club.
Augenstein is one of 88 competitors who made it through local and regional qualifying last summer to earn a trip to Augusta. There are four age groups – 7-9, 10-11, 12-13 and 14-15 – and separate divisions for boys and girls.
The competition is unique in that it will utilize Augusta National’s world-famous facilities on the eve of the 78th Masters Tournament.
Participants will hit drives and chips on the Tournament Practice Range. For the putting portion, they will move to the practice putting green next to the clubhouse for the first two putts. And for the final putt, they will go to the 18th green and attempt a 20-foot putt.
Just like the one Adam Scott made in 2013 before defeating Angel Cabrera in a playoff.
“That’s going to be awesome,” Augenstein said.
As part of its “grow the game” initiative, the Masters Tournament Foundation partnered with the U.S. Golf Association and the PGA of America to create the event. It was announced during last year’s Masters, and more than 17,000 youngsters attempted to qualify.
At the 110 local qualifying sites, golfers advanced to 11 regional finals held across the U.S. The fierce competition produced the final 88 who will get the chance of a lifetime.
“That’s really an amazing opportunity,” said Matt Kuchar, who grabbed the spotlight in 1998 as an amateur in his Masters debut. “If you’re a golfer, just being around Augusta is just a huge highlight. It would be like a football player getting to do something during the Super Bowl.”
That’s exactly the idea that Masters and Augusta National chairman Billy Payne shared with Glen Nager, then-president of the USGA, and Ted Bishop, the president of the PGA.
“We all share the belief that if we can make golf fun, kids will come,” Payne said last year in announcing the event.
The Golf Channel will televise the competition live with a preview show beginning at 8 a.m., followed by action from 9 a.m.-1 p.m.
The highlight will be the chance to putt on the final hole at Augusta National.
“We’ve all had those games when you were a kid on a green making a 5-footer to win the Masters,” 2007 Masters winner Zach Johnson said. “They won’t have it to that degree, but it’s more of a reality because it’s going to be on site, on the 18th green, hitting putts.”
Augusta National sold tickets to the competition via a lottery system similar to the one used for practice round tickets. Patrons will have access to the practice areas, putting green near the clubhouse and the 18th green area, but will not be allowed to visit other areas of the course.
Rheagan Hall doesn’t think she will have a problem performing in front of a big gallery. But judging the speed of Augusta National’s greens might be a different story.
“I know they are going to be very fast,” said Hall, a 14-year-old from Charleston, Tenn. “But I know I’ll have to work on the speed of the greens.”
Like Augenstein, this won’t be Hall’s first visit to the Masters. She came two years ago, and that might give her a leg up on some of the other competitors who will make their first visit this weekend.
“It’s definitely the nicest course I’ve been on,” Hall said. “Some people have never had the chance to do that.”
Staff writer Scott Michaux contributed to this article.
ABOUT THE COMPETITION
- Participants will accumulate points in each of the three skills (drive, chip and putt).
- With 11 competitors in each group, points will be assigned with the best performance earning 11 points, second best receiving 10, and so on down to one point.
- In a tie for first place in one of the skills, a playoff will be held to determine the winner. All other ties will have points combined and split.
- The golfer with the highest number of combined points will win their age group/division.
- To settle ties in an age group/division, a 20-foot putt on the 18th green will determine the winner.
- Drive: Each player will get two drives to record his or her longest drive that remains in bounds. A ball coming to rest on any of the boundary lines is considered in bounds.
- Chip: Each player will chip twice and his or her cumulative distance from the hole will be recorded.
- Putt: Each player will attempt a six-foot putt, a 20-foot putt and a 30-foot putt and will record his or her overall distance from each hole.
- Trophies will be awarded to the top three finishers in each division. The top points earners in the individual skills competitions also will receive trophies.
- Gate 6A on Berckmans Road will be the only patron entrance Sunday.
- Those with tickets will have limited access around Augusta National. They will be able to access the practice areas, putting green near the clubhouse and the 18th green area which includes the No. 1 tee, No. 9 green and No. 10 tee.
- Restrooms, concessions and the merchandise shop in the main patron corridor will be open.
- Free parking will be provided on a first come, first served basis. Lots A and B, near the intersection of Berckmans and Washington roads, will be used Sunday. Please follow all posted signs and instructions to enter these lots.
- Tickets for this year’s event are sold out. Tickets for the 2015 Drive, Chip and Putt National Finals will again be sold in advance, by random selection, after an online application is received. To obtain a ticket application, visit drivechipandputt.com beginning April 6. Applications will be emailed in September.
- 7 a.m.–Gates open to ticketed patrons
- 7:30 a.m.–Drive, Chip and Putt National Finals begin
- 1 p.m.–Drive, Chip and Putt National Finals end*
- 2 p.m.–Gates close*
- Time approximate. Gates close one hour after competition ends.
HOW TO REGISTER FOR 2015
- Registration for the Drive, Chip and Putt Championship will open April 6. Children ages 7-15 as of April 5, 2015 will be eligible. For more information, visit drivechipandputt.com.