From Far to Familiar, Chambers Bay Qualifiers Adavance to Augusta National

UNIVERSITY PLACE, Wash. – Few cities in the United States are farther away from Augusta National Golf Club than Anchorage, Alaska.

It is nearly 4,500 miles.

But for teenager Ian Bruchhauser, the only distance that mattered for the Drive, Chip and Putt National Finals was 30 feet.

Booming drives, delicate chip shots and winding putts highlighted a memorable day at Chambers Bay, the site of the 2015 U.S. Open, as 96 golfers from 12 different states competed for regional titles, and a berth in the sixth annual DCP National Finals next April at Augusta National Golf Club in Augusta, Ga.

It was a comfortably-warm Sunday at Chambers Bay Golf Course, with enough wind coming off Puget Sound to make these standout golfers think twice about how to pull off pressure-packed shots at the links-style course’s practice facility.

It was the first time Chambers Bay hosted a DCP regional event since 2015. Jeff Ellison, the PGA Pacific Northwest Section director, tweaked the pageantry of this year’s competition to mirror what is done at Augusta National. Standard bearers wore all-white overalls and led the parade of 12 golfers from each division to the driving, chipping and putting stations.

And after the participants completed the first two events, the order of play was reshuffled so the leaders were the last to go in the putting competition.

“It was a perfect day for it, and these kids are terrific,” Ellison said. “When we were setting this place up (Saturday) night, there had to be 50 of them here practicing for the championship.”

Ellison was the one who also decided where the competition's final shot - a knee-knocking downhill 30-foot putt - would be held on the practice green.

UNIVERSITY PLACE, WA - SEPTEMBER 09: Ian Bruchhauser competes during the Drive, Chip and Putt regional qualifier at Chambers Bay on September 9, 2018 in University Place, Washington. (Photo by Abbie Parr/Getty Images for the DC&P Championship)
UNIVERSITY PLACE, WA - SEPTEMBER 09: Kasey Maralack poses for a photo after finsihing first overall in the Girls 14-15 competition during the Drive, Chip and Putt regional qualifier at Chambers Bay on September 9, 2018 in University Place, Washington. (Photo by Abbie Parr/Getty Images for the DC&P Championship)
UNIVERSITY PLACE, WA - SEPTEMBER 09: Nilay Naik (L), Jonathan Miller (M) and Ryder Odem (R) pose for a photo after finishing in the Boys 12-13 top three overall during the Drive, Chip and Putt regional qualifier at Chambers Bay on September 9, 2018 in University Place, Washington. (Photo by Abbie Parr/Getty Images for the DC&P Championship)

That was the putt that Bruchhauser needed to coax down the slope and get close to the hole to wrap up not only his first National Finals trip, but an Alaska golfer’s first appearance. And he did just that, stopping it right next to the cup to win the Boys 14-15 age division.

The shot moved his mother, Michele, to tears as she excitedly explained, “We’re not supposed to win this.”

Why?

It’s because Bruchhauser has a good two-and-a-half months outdoors to practice at Anchorage Golf Course, which recently closed to prepare for the usual harsh wintry conditions.

Bruchhauser does not have an opportunity to play junior golf in Alaska, nor does Dimond High School have a golf team.

The only refuge Bruchhauser, 14, has is the local Fox Hollow Golf Course and Sports Dome, an indoor facility that serves as both a soccer field and a driving range.

“We just brave the conditions,” Bruchhauser said.

And after the self-proclaimed “underdog” rammed in the 15-foot putt, he won the competition Sunday with deft touch.

“I am super excited (to go to Augusta),” Bruchhauser said. “And very lucky.”

Bruchhauser is one of the seven newcomers advancing from this regional. The one returner should be a familiar face around Augusta National by now.

Last year at the National Finals, Kasey Maralack, of Snoqualmie, Wash., led the Girls 12-13 age division heading into the putting event. As the last competitor, she faltered down the stretch, finishing as the national runner-up to Sara Im, of Duluth, Ga.

Oddly enough, Maralack was in the opposite position Sunday as she trailed Cynthia Zhang, of Milpitas, Calif., heading into the putting competition in the Girls 14-15 division. Maralack, 14, holed the first two putts, and hit the third one close - then watched as Zhang finished out the skill with a respectable total, but not enough to catch up with Maralack.

“I am just glad it ended in my favor,” Maralack said.

Now she becomes one of a handful of players to advance to the National Finals on three separate occasions.

“For me, I was so close last year,” Maralack said. “And it made me want to go back and try and take it all.

“I would like to win. But at the end of the day, you win just getting there.”

Jonathan Miller, competing in the Boys 12-13 division, made sure to come up to the Pacific Northwest from Roseville, Calif., well in advance of the regional qualifier. He and his family spent the past five days in Oregon.

And on the drive up from Portland on Sunday morning, all Miller could think about was his chipping.

“I felt tired, but I felt good,” Miller said.

It showed, because he holed out his final chip shot, then held off Nilay Naik, of Lake Oswego, Ore., in the putting competition.

Wearing a bright-red shirt with an Under Armour logo, Miller, 11, loudly proclaimed who he most wanted to see next spring at Augusta National.

“Tiger (Woods) first, Jordan (Spieth) second,” Miller said. “But it’s also Augusta National, and Magnolia Lane. … I was up at 4 a.m. (PT) last year to watch my friend (Eric Yun) on television, and they didn’t show him.”

Yana Wilson is an extraordinary young lady. She is 12, and has already won nearly 80 golf tournaments, most of them near her hometown of Henderson, Nev. And she also has her own website, which her friends at Miller Middle School frequently visit.

On Sunday, it was her sturdy nerves that enabled her to recover for 50 putting points to edge Meghan Paracuelles, of Folsom, Calif., for the regional Girls 12-13 title.

“(Winning tournaments) calmed my nerves a lot for this event,” Wilson said.

Other winners included Aiden Tiet of Milpitas, Calif. (Boys 10-11); Anna Jiaxin Huang of Vancouver, British Columbia (Girls 10-11); Maverick Stocker of Everett, Wash. (Boys 7-9); and Angela Zhang of Bellevue, Wash. (Girls 7-9).