DUBLIN, Ohio – A gorgeous late-summer afternoon and an iconic golf course designed by Columbus golf legend Jack Nicklaus made for a memorable day for 80 competitors Saturday in the Drive, Chip and Putt Championship Regional Qualifier at Muirfield Village Golf Club.
Just like a young Golden Bear used to do, a couple of local boys made good and stole the headlines. Meanwhile, Michigan’s P.J. Maybank, age 12, earned the satisfaction of a second trip to Augusta National Golf Club by winning the Boys 12-13 age division two years after competing in the 7-9 age group in 2015.
“I definitely wanted another chance. I think I was too nervous the first time because it was the Masters,” said the youngster from Cheboygan, Mich., who finished sixth in his first appearance in the finals.
With sunny skies and temperatures reaching the 80s, the conditions could not have been more ideal for the competition, held on the majestic practice facility and the putting green at Muirfield Village, the annual site of the Memorial Tournament on the PGA Tour.
After two years hosting a sub-regional, Muirfield Village welcomed one of the 10 regionals for the first time. It seemed notably appropriate given its ties to Nicklaus, the six-time Masters winner.
“We were in on this early on, and when you see these kids compete and the smiles on their faces, that really makes it a special day for us,” said Larry Dornisch, Muirfield Village head golf professional.
“It’s very meaningful for us to be here,” said Amanda Fisher, executive director of the Southern Ohio PGA Section. “The last three years Muirfield Village has opened its doors to us for the Drive, Chip and Putt, and it’s such a special place. Last night at the reception, some of the kids were just taking it all in, and it’s neat because they appreciate where they are and what Jack Nicklaus has done here. They looked at the [Memorial Tournament] Wall of Champions in the media center and they were in awe. It’s great for the kids in a lot of ways.”
In all, eight regional champions advanced to the finals on April 1 at Augusta National, the Sunday before the start of the Masters.
Friends and frequent competitors Brady Barnum and Jackson Harris, a pair of 9-year-olds from the Columbus area, punched their tickets to Georgia thanks to being near home and coolness that belied their age.
Barnum, whose father Craig is a member at Muirfield Village, captured the youngest boys’ division, 7-9 years old, with an all-around impressive effort. The Dublin resident won the driving portion and was second in chipping and putting.
“He started when he was 3, and the first lesson he took he kept his attention for 30 minutes, and I thought, ‘Oh my gosh, we’ve got something,’” Craig Barnum said.
“I just need to keep focusing and getting better,” said Brady, whose coach is Muirfield teaching pro Chad Middaugh. “It’s going to be a great experience for sure to go to Augusta.”
He’ll have a friend there in Harris, from nearby Powell, Ohio. The two compete against each other often in junior events. “I’m not surprised Brady is going. I’m just glad I’m going, too. We see each other everywhere,” said Harris, who won his division approximately a month before his 10th birthday.
Joshua Lavely of Kewadin, Mich., won the Boys 14-15 division with no better than a tie for second place in any one discipline (putting), but his overall game carried him through. No surprise, really, when his father is Larry Lavely, PGA Director of Golf at A-Ga-Ming Golf Resort in Kewadin, Mich.
Another offspring of a PGA professional nearly joined him. In the tightest battle of the day, Allison Cui of Lansing, Mich., edged Kary Hollenbaugh of New Albany, Ohio, by a single point in the Girls 12-13, thanks mainly to her victory in the putting competition. Kary’s father, Paul, is head professional at New Albany Country Club.
“I personally like driving it more,” Cui, 13, said. “It feels satisfying, hitting that ball as far as you can. But putting definitely saved me today. I’m very happy.”
The other winners in the girls’ competition were: Ellie Benson, 9, of Venetia, Pa., in the 7-9 age group; Georgia Bosart, 11, of Clarkston, Mich., in the 10-11 group; and Jami Morris, 15, of Traverse City, Mich., in the 14-15 division.
“This is pretty amazing. I never thought I’d get this far,” said Bosart, who has been playing golf for just three years. “I didn’t know how good I was, really, because I haven’t played in a lot of big things. So now I realize that I can do well in a big event.”
For these kids, it doesn’t get any bigger.