In talking with the staff at The Broadmoor about the logistics of Tuesday’s Drive, Chip and Putt local qualifier – the first to be held in conjunction with a USGA championship – Patrick Salva of the Colorado PGA was pleasantly surprised.
“The folks from The Broadmoor said, ‘Let’s do it on the 18th hole of the West Course,’” said Salva, who assisted with the local qualifier that attracted more than 200 entries to the site of the 39th U.S. Senior Open Championship, being played on the adjacent East Course. “We said, ‘Really? Are you guys OK with that?’ Trust me, they understand the bigger picture. You’ve got past major champions teeing off here, while a 7-year-old is rolling in a 10-foot putt over there. It doesn’t get any better than that.”
The U.S. Senior Open provided a memorable backdrop for DCP, which holds local qualifying in all 50 states for the chance to advance through two additional stages to the ultimate opportunity of competing in the National Finals at Augusta National on the eve of the 2019 Masters Tournament.
Youngsters ages 7 to 15 who competed at The Broadmoor on Tuesday got a special perk when they registered: they had the opportunity – with two guests – to watch a U.S. Senior Open practice round.
“Whether it’s Miguel Angel Jimenez or Freddy Couples, they can watch their favorites play, and hopefully their connection to the game grows,” said Salva, the assistant executive director of the PGA chapter. “Then 10 or 15 years down the road, they’re still playing the game.”
Initial connections to the game were on display all around The Broadmoor. One example is Weston Doherty, 7, of Colorado Springs.
“When we signed him up for a golf class, they mentioned DCP and said there would be another class to prepare for it,” said Weston’s mother, Tracy Doherty. “He really got into it, more than we expected. He wanted to be dropped off early to practice and then be picked up late. Yesterday he practiced for three hours.”
Weston chalked up 54 points, noting that the driving category was his favorite. One prominent sidelight to his interest in the game is the opportunity it provides him to play with his grandfather, Rocky Scott.
“His grandfather got me into the game,” said Tracy. “He’s definitely been a big supporter in getting Weston into it. The two of them go to the driving range and the plan is for them to play a lot of golf together this summer. It’s a neat generational thing.”
Drive, Chip and Putt is a joint initiative founded in 2013 by the Masters Tournament, the USGA and The PGA of America. The free nationwide junior golf development competition is aimed at growing the game by focusing on the three fundamental skills employed in golf. Registration continues for local qualifying.
“I think DCP is a great introductory program in that you don’t have to have a lot of skill and talent to be able to go out and compete and get your feet wet,” said Salva. “A lot of juniors look at golf and think they have to play an 18-hole tournament to immerse themselves in the game, whereas in DCP, they just need to master three shots and hit nine of them in competition. It eliminates a lot of those barriers to entering the game.”
Salva noted that when the program began in 2014, the Colorado section ran six local qualifiers. They are now up to 10, led by Holly Champion, the section’s junior golf director.
“We try to move them around the state, around the section,” said Salva. “Our section covers as far away as parts of Wyoming and South Dakota. We were in Rapid City for a qualifier a couple of weeks ago.”
“There was enough formality to create excitement and structure and seriousness for a 7-year-old,” said Tracy Doherty of Tuesday’s qualifier. “But it was also casual and fun enough that everybody had a good time. I feel like this has propelled our interest in golf in a really good way.”
Article and photos courtesy of the USGA