By Michael R. Abramowitz
Nearly four years ago, Hurricane Sandy ravaged the home of the Gervasi family in Long Beach, New York. As a result, they temporarily relocated further east on Long Island, to Sayville, before deciding that there was a brighter future approximately 1,600 miles away, in Dorado, Puerto Rico, where they have lived ever since.
Last Saturday, Nicholas Gervasi, 9, took second place in the chipping portion, and fourth overall, in the 10-11 age bracket, at the Drive, Chip and Putt subregional qualifier at the PGA Center for Golf Learning & Performance, in Port St. Lucie, Fla.
Gervasi nearly holed out one chip, leaving two within the closest target zone to the hole —roughly the equivalent of a tap-in putt.
His father, Jim Gervasi, alluded to the “perfect storm” that would bring them all the way to Port St. Lucie.
“The game of golf is about experiences,” explained Jim. “The game of golf is not only a game. It’s a lot about life…It teaches maturity, dedication and makes my son more well-rounded.”
Nicholas’ drives averaged 140-150 yards, while his chips were textbook. The one part of the equation he would like to improve is the final discipline. “I liked it, but I have to putt better. Still, it’s really fun. I will have to work harder to qualify (next time),” he said.
Dreaming the Dream
Yet, members of the Gervasi family were not the only ones that made the trip from the U.S. Territory in the Caribbean to the mainland. In fact, 15 families from Puerto Rico made it a vacation to remember, with several, including Nicholas, first competing in the U.S. Kids Golf World Championship at Pinehurst in North Carolina—before traveling to South Florida, to pursue their ultimate goal of competing at Augusta National Golf Club just before the Masters next spring.
Once players get past this particular subregional of 140 registered boys and girls ages 7-15, representing the South Florida PGA Section—which runs from roughly Punta Gorda to Vero Beach and across the Atlantic to include Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands—they must advance out of the September 10 regional at TPC Sawgrass in Ponte Vedra Beach, Fla., in one of four age/gender categories (four boys/four girls) on the “Road to the Masters.”
Puerto Rico’s Darianys Guzman, 11, finished third in her age group, so she did not quite advance out of the round. However, this was something more. “The experience was so great, I can’t explain it. It was a dream.”
For Nicholas Estrada, 13, of West Palm Beach, Fla., this was his third attempt to advance from a subregional. The last two years, he finished out of the top two, barely. Yet, only two survive each age bracket. Saturday, he finished second in the 14-15 boys division.
Mission accomplished. Sigh of relief. Next stop, Ponte Vedra. And perhaps, Augusta may follow.
“It would mean a lot to me to go to the Masters,” said Estrada, who endured another year wait to try to qualify again. “I wish they had it more often.”
A total of 16 juniors (eight boys and eight girls) advanced to the Drive, Chip and Putt regional qualifiers out of the Port St. Lucie subregional.
They are now one step closer to Magnolia Lane, thanks to Drive, Chip and Putt.