By John Steinbreder
The ride to any golf course before a tournament can produce its fair share of tension. That’s just how it is before a competition, and the three teenage girls in the van motoring down Washington Road were dealing with a combination of nerves and excitement. But those emotions were understandably elevated Sunday morning because they were playing in the National Finals of the Drive, Chip and Putt Championship.
And the venue to which they were traveling was Augusta National.
“I am a little more nervous than I normally would be before a competition,” said 15-year-old Arielle Keating of Colorado Springs, Colo. “But I am also a little more excited.”
It was much the same way for Julia Gregg.
“I’m feeling more pressure, too,” said the Dallas native, who plays out of the Brookhaven Country Club, which is where Jordan Spieth learned the game, and works with the 2015 Masters champion’s childhood coach, Joey Anders. “I had a little bit of trouble sleeping last night because I got the hiccups for about an hour. But then I had a pretty good rest.”
"I am a little more nervous than I normally would be before a competition...but I am also a little more excited” - Arielle Keating
Gregg hardly seemed overwhelmed by what lies ahead, however, and she joked with her mother Judy Morgan about how she is going to handle being the first contestant in this year’s DCP, teeing of at 7:30 a.m.
“I’m thinking of doing a Happy Gilmore on my first drive,” she said with a giggle.
To pass the time, Keating mentioned how DCP is different from other competitions they all play.
“In a regular tournament, you have the time and ability to make up some holes if you struggle a bit,” she said. “But here, you only have two shots. Two drives, two chips and two putts.”
The other two competitors in the van, Sophie Guo of Bluffton, S.C., and Natalia Sompolvorachai of West Chester, Ohio, sat in silence for most of the ride. And then the entire van went quiet as it made the left turn down Magnolia Lane. It was still dark, but the girls could make out the trees on either side of the road, and the stately white clubhouse at the end. They leaned forward in their seats to get better views, with some snapping photos and taking videos with their smart phones. Suddenly, Gregg blurted out: “My goal in life is to become a member of Augusta National,” and several of her van mates chuckled.
Then Keating added: “It’s even beautiful in the dark.”