TULSA, Okla. – As a freshman at Lafayette High School in Wildwood, Mo., Brooke Biermann is undefeated this fall, as is her team. It was easy to see why Saturday, as she put on a golf skills clinic with 152 points to lead all competitors in the Drive, Chip and Putt Regional Finals at Southern Hills Country Club.
In winning the Girls 14-15 age group, Biermann drove for show, with her longest at 265 yards, and putted for the prized trip to the Drive, Chip and Putt National Finals at Augusta National, making two of three and putting the other in the closest ring for 70 points. She outscored her nearest competitor, Riley Stephens of Albuquerque, N.M., by 36 points.
“I’m so excited about going to Augusta,” Biermann said. “It’s just amazing.”
Her father Bill, who described his daughter as a “full-on golf nut,” who loves watching the sport, particularly her favorites Stacy Lewis and Jordan Spieth.
“All the way here from St. Louis we’re watching golf on the phone,” he said. “She loves it.”
On a hot and windy afternoon at one of the U.S.’s historic courses, home to seven major championships with a Senior PGA Championship and a PGA Championship on the way, Biermann was one of eight qualifiers for the DCP Finals to be held on Sunday, April 1, prior to the 2018 Masters.
For each of the contestants and the vast majority of the parents, it will be their first trip to hallowed Augusta National. One exception is Chris Mulhall, a PGA member currently running a golf academy in Las Vegas. The family was living in Green River, Wyoming, when his daughters, Ali and Molli, qualified through the Colorado sub-regional.
Ali won the girls 12-13 age group with a score of 118, a single point better than Lyla Louderbaugh of Buffalo, Mo. Her putter was the key, as she piled up 50 points in the final of the three events to Louderbaugh’s 27 to come from behind. Not surprising, since Chris flies her to take putting lessons in San Diego from Scotty Cameron.
Molli, competing in the 7-9 age group, did not advance, but will have many more chances, as will his youngest daughter Palmer who is just getting started at age 4. Ali came up with a cool name for his golf camp, using the first letter of each family member including Chris, wife Heather, Ali, Molli and Palmer. Visit ChampX if you’re in the Las Vegas area.
As a former University of Nebraska golfer, Kevin Bryson has been nervous over some important putts in competition, but never more so than he was Saturday watching son Thomas, who won the Boys 11-12 age group with a score of 119.
“I was sweating bullets,” he said. “This is much more nerve wracking.”
Thomas calmed him down with his steady performance in all three skills, earning their first trips to Augusta National. It even took away the sting of his beloved Cornhuskers’ football loss to Northern Illinois earlier in the afternoon.
Thomas has been swatting golf balls since he was a toddler and laced his drives in excess of 230 yards, then added 50 points in putting to finish with a score of 119, 15 ahead of Savyasaachi Kandula of Chesterfield, Mo.
The host state will send a contestant to Augusta, as 7-year-old Evyn Cannon of Edmond, Okla., won the Girls 7-9 group mainly on the strength of her 31 points in chipping, a score that was strong for any age group as the chip was from deep bermudagrass rough below and right of the fourth green at Southern Hills, a green that slopes dramatically back to front, meaning the chips would break hard right at the end.
Cannon sustained a buckle fracture of her arm in June while horsing around with a friend, just a month before she was scheduled to compete in the U.S. Kids Nationals at Pinehurst. Although she couldn’t swing until just over a week prior, she finished second in her age group.
Told she was going to Augusta, Evyn said, “Is it next Monday? I’m ready.” She made a face when she learned she would need to wait months to get her chance at a national title.
Others advancing include Michael Jorski of Overland Park, Kan., who won the Boys 7-9 with 99 points; Callia Ward of Albuquerque, N.M., who prevailed in the Girls 10-11 age group with 109 points; James Dintino of Kansas City, Mo., winner of the Boys 12-13 with 121 points; and Kaden Ford of Colorado Springs, Colo., with a solid overall performance in the Boys 14-15 age group and a score of 139.
Ford, 14, has lowered his handicap from 14 to 5 this summer by spending six hours per day practicing and is now making key contributions to his high school team at Discovery Canyon High School. Notably, he was the only one of the eight winners not to list Jordan Spieth as his favorite golfer, going with Jason Day and Dustin Johnson. Spieth, however, is “awesome,” he said.
As were all the winners and contestants Saturday.