Teddy Seitz has practiced an entire year for this day.
Standing in the heat near the chipping green at the University of Maryland Golf Club in College Park, Md., Seitz meticulously hits chip after chip out of the thick rough, delicately landing the ball in a left to right roll toward its target.
“Chipping has always been the most difficult,” said Seitz, 12. “I’ve competed every year since Drive, Chip and Putt started. I’ve done well, but choked in chipping before. I think this might finally be the year.”
Teddy was joined by 204 fellow juniors chasing the same dream on this hot day in College Park.
“The field is bigger than I’ve ever seen before,” said Marvin Forbes, a parent of two children competing at the qualifier. “Today was great, but definitely difficult to advance.”
Twenty-four juniors qualified for the subregional from the University of Maryland, one of 10 local qualifying locations in the PGA’s Middle Atlantic Section.
“I like the challenge because it builds skills and confidence,” said Lolita Forbes, a parent from Accokeek, Md. “Put those together and you might have a great little golfer with a great golf game on your hands.”
“We love hosting Drive, Chip and Putt at Maryland,” said Brian Dix, Assistant Professional at the University of Maryland Golf Club. “We want to bring more kids into golf, especially the ones who are just beginning. This competition compartmentalizes everything into nine shots, and it shows kids if they like golf and want to continue to play and get better, or maybe just do Drive, Chip and Putt every year.”
Jonah Robinson, 12, has been playing golf much of her life through the First Tee program, but the University of Maryland qualifier was her first real competitive experience in golf.
“I watched some videos online, and I was really interested and got my Dad to sign me up,” Robinson said. “I think it’s cool because everyone has a chance, and you can learn what you need to work on the rest of the year to get better for next time.”
After a slow start in the driving competition, Robinson went on to a strong chipping performance and led her division with 46 points at the putting station, securing her a first place overall finish by one point. Robinson thought the experience “was just great” and couldn’t believe her chipping score of 36, a skill she describes as “her absolute worst.”
For children like Jonah, finishing in the top three positions in their divisions means a trip to one of two Middle Atlantic PGA subregional competitions at River Bend Club and Salisbury Golf Club. It’s another step closer to reaching Augusta.
The Drive, Chip and Putt Championship wouldn’t be possible without the hard work of PGA Section employees and volunteers such as Kurt Knapper, the new Assistant Executive Director for the MAPGA experiencing his first event. Another dozen employees and volunteers from the MAPGA Section and University of Maryland joined Knapper.
“The entire event showed so much high energy and enthusiasm from all parties involved,” Knapper said. “Our staff, the volunteers, participants and parents showed why they’re excited about this event. It is a long day, and it is warm, but you can see everyone is here for the kid’s development.”
It’s obvious why Drive, Chip and Putt is such a special event. Developing the next generation of golfers is no easy task, but the competition creates a fun and energizing environment for junior golf.