Drive, Chip & Putt Success Spilling Over to USGA Championships

To understand the growth of the Drive, Chip & Putt Championship, just ask Megha Ganne.

The 14-year-old from Holmdel, N.J., who qualified for the DCP National Finals at Augusta National Golf Club in 2015, 2017 and 2018 has watched its popularity explode since its debut in 2014.

“I can definitely say that each year it gets harder and harder to qualify because there are so many more kids that try and compete in it,” said Ganne. “Even at the local stage, the number of kids who were there my first year compared to this past year is not even comparable.”

Ganne is one of 13 competitors in the 4th U.S. Women’s Amateur Four-Ball Championship who have advanced to the DCP National Finals. She is joined by Avery Zweig, Skylar Thompson, Lydia Swan, Bailey Shoemaker, Chloe Kovelesky, Leila Dizon, Abbey Daniel, Kynedie Adams, Alexandra Swayne, Sarah Willis, Ashley Gilliam and Mimi Chen.

And next month, Lucy Li, who won the Girls’ 10-11 division in the inaugural DCP, will represent the USA in the Curtis Cup Match at Quaker Ridge Golf Club in Scarsdale, N.Y..

“DCP focuses on the basics, helping kids to learn and have fun playing the game while improving and developing their skills,” said Beth Major, director, Public & Community Affairs for the USGA. “It’s for any kid, anywhere, of any ability. It’s an amazing experience for all, whether you’re relatively new to the game or have been playing for a while.”

The joint initiative, founded by the USGA, Masters Tournament and The PGA of America, has inspired both beginning and competitive junior golfers.

The latter includes Ganne and Shoemaker, 13, of West Edmeston, N.Y., who are competing as teammates this week at El Caballero. Shoemaker made her initial DCP appearance this year, finishing second in the 12-13 division.

WAFB COMPETITORS TO QUALIFY FOR DRIVE, CHIP & PUTT NATIONAL FINALS

PLAYERYEAR(S)DIVISIONFINISH
Kynadie Adams2015, 201610-11 (2015)
12-13 (2016)
5th (2015)
8th (2016)
Mimi Chen201714-152nd
Abbey Daniel201514-159th
Leila Dizon201514-15T-7
Megha Ganna2015, 2017, 201810-11 (2015)
12-13 (2017)
14-15 (2018)
6th (2015)
T-2 (2017)
4th (2018)
Ashley Gilliam201512-133rd
Chloe Kovelesky201710-112nd
Lydia Swan201510-11Won
Alexandra Swayne201514-15Won
Bailey Shoemaker201812-13T-2
Skylar Thompson201614-152nd
Sarah Willis201412-136th
Avery Zweig2016, 20187-9 (2016)
10-11 (2018)
T-3 (2016)
6th (2018)

“She asked me for a lot of advice about playing in the finals,” said Ganne of Shoemaker. “I told her just focus on the experience of going to Augusta National even more than the competition. Even if you finish 10th out of 10 you need to realize where you are. It sounds easy to do but it’s not when you’re in the moment.”

Participating in the National Finals on television has gained Ganne plenty of unexpected recognition.

“If you’re at a golf course now, there’s almost no one who doesn’t know about DCP,” she said. “I even go to other states to play in tournaments and people ask me, ‘Hey, were you the person competing in the DCP finals?’”

Ganne, who qualified for both the U.S. Women’s Amateur and U.S. Girls’ Junior last year, notes a major difference between DCP and a USGA championship.

“In DCP you know that you’re only going to get those six shots. It’s a lot easier to practice for when it comes to technique, but harder when it comes to what it feels like mentally. For a USGA championship, you have to be ready for anything. You need a well-rounded game. I think it’s a lot harder to qualify for a USGA championship. And there’s a lot less cameras around!”

Avery Zweig, 11, of McKinney, Texas, may be the youngest player in this week’s field, but she already has advanced to a pair of DCP National Finals, finishing tied for third in 2016 (7-9 division) and sixth earlier this month (10-11 division). Just qualifying for the National Finals even changed her practice habits, according to her father Ivan.

“The grid used during the drive competition at DCP inspired us to do something similar every time Avery warms up,” he said. “Now we find a place on the range where we can use existing flags to create a 15- to 25-yard wide lane that she aims for. That would be the number one thing from DCP that she applies every day she sets foot on a course. We never would have thought of doing that without DCP. It’s probably why the driver is one of the best clubs in her bag.”

Competing on such a big stage has only inspired Zweig to achieve bigger things in the game.

“I want to continue on this path so I’m obviously going to be under pressure in some sort of way,” she said. “It’s good to have the DCP experience under my belt. You never know, I could be on the last hole needing to make birdie and that’s a situation where it’s do or die. It’s that same way with DCP.”

One byproduct of Zweig’s success in DCP is that it’s helped introduce children of some of their family’s friends to golf.

“I told them to take their kids out to the DCP just so they can compete,” said Ivan Zweig. “That way they’re not having to spend two or three hours playing golf. They can go warm up, hit some shots and see what it’s like. With beginning golfers, a lot falls on the parents who may not even be golfers or know the Rules. But things are very hands off in the first two stages of DCP – they just want the kids to go out there and have fun. Just hit the ball. It’s a good deal.”

Arizona resident Tom Mackin is a frequent contributor to USGA websites. Email him at temackinjr@gmail.com.