AUGUSTA -- Augusta National Golf Club will add golf’s version of the NFL’s Punt, Pass & Kick next year when it debuts the Drive, Chip and Putt Championship with the finals to be held the week before the Masters.
The championship is open to boys and girls ages 7-15. Local qualifying will run from June 1 to July 15 -- with some qualifying events being held in Georgia -- and regional qualifying will take place in August. The championship final will be conducted April 6. There is no fee to participate.
The drive and chipping portion of the final will be held at the tournament practice facility, and the putting component will take place on Augusta National’s 18th green. Every child who makes it to the championship round -- which will be broadcast by Golf Channel -- will receive three Monday practice round tickets to the 2014 Masters.
“Generations of players have been inspired by the dream of sinking a winning putt on the 18th green at Augusta National,” Augusta National chairman Billy Payne said. “Now an exciting opportunity exists to make that dream a reality. I am confident that our collective efforts with the USGA and The PGA of America will showcase the talents of kids who already play this game and motivate others to give the sport a try.”
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Tickets to the Drive, Chip and Putt Championship will be sold for $25 each through a ticket lottery system.
Youngest by a long shot
Many young golfers point to Tiger Woods’ win at the 1997 Masters as a turning point in their golf career, with the win perhaps serving as the motivation to start playing.
Guan wasn’t even born when Woods slipped on his first green jacket.
The 14-year-old still idolized Woods, and he received a thrill by playing with the four-time Masters champion during a practice round Monday.
“I played with him twice in the past couple years, and he gives me advice, and I will say every time I play with him, I feel a lot better and (it gives me) some confidence,” Guan said
The Chinese teen earned a Masters invitation by winning the Asian Amateur in November.
He has spent the past three weeks in Augusta, prepping for the Masters by playing area courses and Augusta National.
Guan, who turned 14 less than a month before winning the Asian Amateur, is two years younger than Matteo Manassero, who at 16 was the youngest competitor in Masters history when he competed in 2010.
“(I just want to) enjoy the tournament and play some good shots and just enjoy it, and hopefully I can play well,” he said.
If things go bad, Guan will still be eligible for the Drive, Chip and Putt Championship next year.
Down to his final chance
Martin Laird didn’t have an invitation into the Masters this time last week.
That changed when the 30-year-old won the Valero Texas Open on Sunday in San Antonio.
Laird, who is from Scotland but resides in Arizona, shot a 63 on Sunday to beat Rory McIlroy by two shots.
“Couple years ago was my first Masters,” Laird said after his win Sunday. “I played well there the first time around. Last year, I didn’t play as well. So I’m hoping next year I get back. I absolutely love the golf course. It’s definitely a special place.”
Laird already has one win in Georgia.
He won the Athens Regional Foundation Classic -- now known as the Stadion Classic at UGA -- on the Nationwide Tour in 2007.