Masters Champions Join in Excitement

As he stood with competitors in the Boys 12-13 division, the thought occurred to Mark O’Meara: “I told them, I didn’t even start playing golf ’til I was 13, so they’re way ahead of me,” said the winner of the 1998 Masters.

Yet, O’Meara – who never grows tired of the sights and sounds that are a part in the annual Masters Tournament – soaked in the excitement of the sixth annual Drive, Chip and Putt National Finals on Sunday and pronounced it yet another hit.

“I love it, I love it,” said O’Meara who was joined by seven other Masters champions (Sergio Garcia, Patrick Reed, Bubba Watson, Adam Scott, Nick Faldo, Bernhard Langer and Mike Weir) in presenting awards to the participants. “Who knows? Maybe one day one of these kids will be wearing a Green Jacket and hand out trophies.”

Beka Yang of the Girls 10 - 11 division shakes hands with Masters champion Mark O'Meara during the Drive, Chip and Putt National Finals at Augusta National Golf Club, Sunday, April 7, 2019.

O’Meara, who has been emphatic in his support of the Drive, Chip and Putt initiative since it debuted in 2014, said he was equally impressed with what he saw when he turned on his television Saturday afternoon.

“What I witnessed (the Augusta National Women’s Amateur) was incredible,” he said. “Just spectacular.”

Pointing to dramatic shots hit by the winner, Jennifer Kupcho, at the 13th, 15th and 16th holes, O’Meara said it made him even more proud to be wearing a Green Jacket.

“I’m happy for the Club,” he said. “It bodes well for the game of golf.”

“Who knows? Maybe one day one of these kids will be wearing a Green Jacket and hand out trophies.”
-Mark O'Meara

The Augusta National Women’s Amateur had such an impact, in fact, that Kupcho was asked to attend the Drive, Chip and Putt awards presentation on Sunday morning. As she stood beneath the Big Oak Tree, the Wake Forest standout accepted congratulations from a healthy line of Club members and Masters champions, so surely the Women’s Amateur resonated.

Few embraced it with the fervor Watson did. He was in attendance for Saturday’s final round at Augusta National and a day later was still gushing about Kupcho’s 32 on the second nine. Asked which of Kupcho’s second shots into a par 5 was more impressive – the one at 13 to set up a short eagle putt or the one at 15 that she had to bend right-to-left to make birdie – Watson shook his head.

“Impressive seeing that, especially under pressure,” he said. “But it’s what great champions have been doing throughout (the years) on this golf course.”

He gave a slight edge to the shot at 13, but Watson was adamant that the way Kupcho cemented her victory with a birdie at No. 18 will be with her forever.

“No matter what she does in life – she could be president of the United States and she can pull out that clip (of the final putt in her Women’s Amateur win) and say, ‘Let me show you what I did once.’”

Augusta National Women's Amateur champion Jennifer Kupcho poses with the Girls 7-9 division competitors during the Drive, Chip and Putt National Finals at Augusta National Golf Club, Sunday, April 7, 2019.

Kupcho confirmed that Watson’s presence was greatly appreciated.

“Walking up to the first tee before my round and coming off 18 green, being able to shake his hand both times, was memorable,” she said.

Adding time at the Drive, Chip and Putt National Finals and now the Augusta National Women’s Amateur to his Masters week is something Watson is honored to do.

“It’s a no-brainer for me,” he said. “It’s a blast. I feel like having a Green Jacket on, I’m a member of the Club. No matter how I play the rest of my career (in the Masters), I’m still part of the Club, and any initiative the Club undertakes, I should be part of.”