PLYMOUTH, MI – It’s safe to assume Eli Boucher Landa and his parents Ken and Susanne (pictured above) traveled the greatest distance to make it to a 2017 Drive, Chip and Putt Championship local qualifier.
It is 2,818 driving miles from their home in Yellowknife in the Northwest Territories of Canada to the Fox Hills Golf & Learning Center in Plymouth, Mich.
“We took two plane rides, and two long car rides,” the talkative Eli said after competing in the Boys 7-9 age division.
Created for boys and girls ages 7-15, the Drive, Chip and Putt Championship is a joint initiative of the PGA of America, the USGA and the Masters Tournament. The top three boys and girls in each of four age divisions can advance through local, subregional and regional qualifying to earn a place in the National Finals at Augusta National Golf Club the Sunday before the Masters Tournament.
Though Eli did not finish among the top three in his age group in the Aug. 5 local qualifier to advance to the subregional competition, he did have a golf personal best.
“I absolutely crushed my first drive,” the 8-year-old exclaimed. “It went 178 yards and it is the best drive I ever hit. I caught the hill and got a super good kick that added some distance.”
Golf is not easy to find in Yellowknife, which is located 249 miles south of the Arctic Circle. Eli’s father Ken said there is one golf course constructed of sand and artificial turf tees and greens. Eli said to play he and his father carry mats.
“You pick up the ball, dig a hole, put the mat down, put the ball back on it and hit,” Eli explained.
Eli demonstrated passion for golf the first time at age 1 and a half. While watching the Ryder Cup Matches on television with his father, he grabbed a kitchen spatula and started swinging like the golfers.
“From there it was a novelty hockey stick, then Snoopy clubs and then real ones,” Ken said. “He loves it. We encourage it, and we tied in this trip with a family vacation in Ontario.”
It took just a 10-minute trip to Fox Hills for the Braun brothers, Tim and Greg, who are from nearby Northville and spend most of their summer days taking part in the many junior golf programs, clinics and events at the facility.
Kurt and Kristin Braun both like golf, but don’t play it well. Eight years ago they brought them to Fox Hills.
“As a lousy golfer I didn’t want to set them off wrong,” Kurt said.
Tim, who finished first in the Boys 14-15 with help from a chip-in, said he identifies himself as a golfer.
“I quit soccer and I golf as much as I can,” he said. “I love it.”
He played some varsity matches at Northville High School last year as a freshman, and is on to subregionals for the second time.
“It would be really cool to get to Augusta,” he said.
His brother Greg didn’t qualify, but at 12 he has a few more chances.
“I’ll try again,” he said. “I would be feeling better if one of my drives stayed in.”
Jordan Young, PGA professional and director of instruction at Fox Hills, said the Braun brothers are fun kids who love the game.
“They are around here all the time and they love to learn,” he said. “We are proud of them.”
Many sets of siblings were part of the 212 golfers registered at Fox Hills, and Anci Dy of Traverse City is trying to follow in the footsteps of her older sister Anika, who twice before has reached the National Finals.
Moving on from the local qualifier looked in peril after her three drives missed the grid and she scored zero points before moving on to chipping and putting.
“I pulled them just a little and couldn’t get one to stay in,” she said. “I was disappointed, but I knew still had six shots left and maybe it was possible.”
She made good on the six shots, winning first place in both the chip and putt competitions, and finished third in the girls 14-15 to advance.
“I concentrated on every chip because I have a tendency to chunk them,” she said. “I would love to do what Anika did and go to the Masters. I got to go with her and watch, but I want to compete there.”
Sibling rivalry has been the story of the summer for Anci. In the recent Michigan Women’s Amateur Championship at Saginaw Country Club she reached the quarterfinals to find the next match play opponent in her way was her older sister Anika. She lost 2 and 1.
“It was a good experience for me,” she said. “I try hard to live up to what my sister has done. We are close and I’m proud of her.”