Contestants Eager for Augusta Debuts

It was John Lennon who wrote the song, “How Do You Sleep?” and that is surely a question many contestants in Sunday’s National Finals of the Drive, Chip and Putt event are asking themselves the night before.

After all, they are only hours away from driving down Magnolia Lane and then warming up on parts of the old and new practice areas of the Augusta National Golf Club before the actual competition begins, with patrons in attendance, and maybe even a Masters player or two.

How could those youngsters possibly doze off?

Sunday will come quite early for some of the Drive, Chip and Putt players, as the first shuttle buses depart for the club from the Marriott Hotel in downtown Augusta at 6 a.m. The competition starts at 7:30 a.m., and it is expected to end by 1 p.m.

Each player will hit a pair of drives from the tee of the Tournament Practice Facility, and the longest one of those that remains in bounds will be counted. Contestants will also have the chance to chip twice on a part of the short game area of that same facility, with his or her cumulative distance from the hole recorded.

Then, each player will attempt a 6-foot putt, a 20-foot putt and a 30-foot putt on the practice putting green outside of the Founders Room and also the 18th green. Again, the overall distance from the hole for each will be assessed. Points will be assigned for individual performances in each of those events, and the players with the most points in each of the four age groups will be declared the winner.

Started in 2013 by the Masters Tournament Foundation, the United States Golf Association and the PGA of America, and designed to promote interest and participation in golf, the Drive, Chip and Putt is a free, nationwide junior skills competition. It began last summer with a total of 110 local qualifying events at golf courses in 19 states and Washington, D.C., that drew more than 17,000 individuals, with top finishers advancing to 11 regional qualifiers. From there, 88 golfers from ages 7 to 15  – half of whom are boys and the other half girls – earned spots in the finals.

The finals on Sunday will be a big day for those players, who hail from 27 states, Washington, D.C. and Canada. And none of them could be blamed if they feel a few jitters on the tee before they hit their first drive.

Or if they had a hard time sleeping the night before.