Riding in a van up Washington Road just as dawn was breaking, 15-year-old Elise Deschaine leaned forward in her seat as the vehicle neared the entrance to Augusta National.
“I was in town two years ago for a First Tee tournament,” said the Portland, Ore. native, who is also a vegetarian and lifelong Buddhist. “And we went to the entrance gate of the club on the way to the course we were playing. But we were not able to go in.”
This time, however, Elise was able to make the trip down Magnolia Lane. That’s because she was one of the National Finalists in the 2018 Drive, Chip and Putt Championship, and the 9th-grader could hardly contain her excitement as she headed to place where the Masters Tournament has longed been played – and where she would be competing in the fifth-annual DCP.
Neither could the two other contestants who were riding with her, Mackenzie McRee from Tucson, Ariz., and Brooke Biermann of St. Louis. A couple of them let out slight gasps as the van slowly turned off Washington and inched down the drive toward the Clubhouse, and one said, “Wow!”
All three then started craning their necks to gaze through the magnolias and across the closely cropped grass on either side of the lane. “Look at that, look at that!” Elise exclaimed.
Even at this early hour, the rich color of the famous Augusta turf was evident, prompting Brooke to suddenly say: “This place is crazy green.”
Mackenzie, who has scoliosis like her hero, LPGA Tour standout Stacy Lewis, and has to wear a back brace 18 hours a day, was equally impressed with the flora. “We don’t have trees and plants like this back home in Arizona,” she said.
Even her father, Jim, was pumped.
“I feel like a 10-year-old kid going to Disneyland for the first time.”
Everyone in the van was wound up when it embarked on the trip from the downtown hotel to the club Sunday morning at precisely 6:50 a.m., the first of what would be several waves of shuttles for competitors for all eight divisions.
“I cannot believe that we are on our way to Augusta National,” said Brooke, who always uses a yellow golf ball to honor her late grandfather. “And I am excited about being able to hit shots later today where the greatest PGA Tour professionals in the world have played, and just being on the same course.”
The trip to the club took only 15 minutes, and after driving down Magnolia Lane and then swinging around a road to the left of the Clubhouse, the vehicle stopped and the competitors jumped out, stopping for a moment to look around and absorb where they had landed before gathering their clubs and heading to the practice area.
The ride was over, but their trip had just begun.