Competition, Excitement Highlight DCP Finals

In what seems like a blink of an eye, the Drive, Chip and Putt Championship has soared in the consciousness of golfers of all ages and golf facilities throughout the country.

Now in its fourth year, DCP has become a not-to-be-missed part of the Masters Tournament. The annual competition among golf’s future has become absorbing on many levels.

The level of the competition has been outstanding. Along with their skill, the young golfers have displayed an appreciation for the game, its traditions and its values.

The images of the golfers aglow in their unblemished enthusiasm and emotion have captivated television viewers.

The patrons in attendance at Augusta National Golf Club have been appreciative of the effort and talent.

A long list of Masters champions – Gary Player, Ben Crenshaw, Nick Faldo and Mark O’Meara, to name just a few – have become central to the event, celebrating and encouraging the golfers with enduring support. Win or lose, the wisdom of the champions has become a lasting treasure.

Add those elements to the pristine backdrop of Augusta National, and the package is irresistible.

And it’s only just beginning.

“Our commitment to the Drive, Chip and Putt Championship is unwavering, grounded by our desire to introduce more kids to the sport and inspire the game’s next generation,” said Billy Payne, Chairman of Augusta National Golf Club and the Masters Tournament.

“With the continued leadership of our two fellow founding partners, the program has grown and expanded across the country. Our expectation is to connect more young players everywhere to this wonderful game through a fun experience they will remember for the rest of their lives.”

Drive, Chip and Putt is a joint effort of the United States Golf Association, the PGA of America and the Masters. As the leading growth of the game initiative featuring young golfers, DCP continues to demonstrate what is possible when a movement is created that embraces people and places.

Masters champion Bubba Watson greets Nicole Criscone during the 2016 Drive, Chip and Putt National Finals.

It is a sentiment voiced by USGA president Diana Murphy.

“On our fifth-year milestone, it is evident that when the golf industry works together to welcome more people to the game, great things happen,” Murphy said. “The elation we see on each child’s face when they play in a Drive, Chip and Putt event inspires us all, and gives us great energy to engage more golfers in this exceptional program. It is clearly making an impact on the future of the game.”

The pride is tangible among the DCP founders.

“I know I express the sentiments of the USGA and the PGA of America, that nothing makes us prouder to share our game and our good fortune with these wonderful kids,” Payne said after last year’s event.

The shining star among DCP graduates is Lucy Li, who was an age-group winner at the inaugural DCP in 2014 as an 11-year-old. Two months later, she became the youngest ever to qualify for the U.S. Women’s Open. She was in the sixth grade at the time.

This week, Li, 14, is playing and excelling in another LPGA major championship at the ANA Inspiration.

Lucy Li putts on the No. 18 green at Augusta National during the 2014 Drive, Chip and Putt National Finals.

The nationwide youth golf development initiative, free to competitors, invites boys and girls, ages 7-15, to participate in local qualifying opportunities in all 50 states throughout the months of May, June, July and August. Registration is now open for the 2018 DCP, with local qualifying beginning in May at 268 host sites in each age and gender category.

The 80 finalists in this year’s event have reached Sunday’s National Finals at Augusta National where the final discipline, putting, will be contested on the famed 18th green, where so many Masters winners have been celebrated. Thirty states and Canada are represented this year.

"Our expectation is to connect more young players everywhere to this wonderful game through a fun experience they will remember for the rest of their lives.” - Chairman Billy Payne

Through DCP, some of America’s finest, most promising young golfers have established themselves as players to watch in the future. Once again, these young players have jumped into the limelight rapidly, something only a widely respected competition such as DCP can do.

Alexa Pano of Lake Worth, Fla., is returning to Augusta for the third time, the most ever appearances. She won the Girls 12-13 division last year. Pano, who has won more than 350 golf trophies, was part of the 2012 Jason Timberlake documentary “The Short Game”, in which she said her goal was to become the first female to play in the Masters.

Alexa Pano practices prior to her third Drive, Chip and Putt National Finals appearance.

Treed Huang, the Boys 7-9 champion in the inaugural 2014 competition, is back competing in the 12-13 age group. He’s got company – his sister, Maye, is competing in the Girls 7-9 age group. They’re from Katy, Texas.

The international contingent includes three Canadians from the Province of Ontario – Carlee Meilleur of Lansdowne, (Girls 7-9); Mia Wong of Markham (Girls 10-11) and Savannah Grewal of Mississauga, (Girls 14-15).

“Drive, Chip and Putt has made a remarkable and sustained impact on tens of thousands of boys and girls, by giving them an opportunity to showcase their golf skills in a fun and exciting format,” said Paul Levy, president of the PGA of America.

Golf Channel will offer expanded coverage of Sunday’s event. Morning Drive Pre-Game will run at 7 a.m. (ET), with the National Finals to air from 8 a.m. to 1 p.m.

“Through the partnership of the Masters Tournament Foundation, PGA of America and USGA, the Drive, Chip and Putt National Finals is a wonderful gathering of exceptional, charismatic junior golfers fulfilling their dreams from golf’s most cherished stage,” said Molly Solomon, executive producer, Golf Channel. “The event stands as one of the most unique and proudest moments of the year in golf, with the privilege of showcasing the competitors in the field who embody the bright future of the sport.”

What happens Sunday at the Drive, Chip and Putt National Finals once again will be a triumph for all those who experience it.