Experience counts when it comes to handicapping who is going to win the Masters, and more times than not, the golfer who has won before or at the very least been in the mix on Sunday has a much better chance of prevailing than a rank rookie.
That same assessment might be just as sensibly applied to the National Finals of the Drive, Chip and Putt Championship held the Sunday before the Tournament, especially when one considers just how big and nerve-wracking the stage at Augusta National is for young golfers. So it would not be a mistake to regard three competitors – Megha Ganne, Vanessa Borovilos and Treed Huang – as favorites in their divisions, as each of them have been here before. In fact, this is the third year they have made the Finals.
For 14-year-old Megha of Holmdel, New Jersey, there is a big difference in how she feels this time around.
“It's just as beautiful here and just as fun an experience as it was before,” says the 8th-grader who finished sixth in the Girls 10-11 division in 2015 and tied for second in the Girls 12-13 last year. “But I now feel more relaxed and more prepared. I know what is coming and how I need to get ready for it.”
As it relates to her game, she says she has not done anything differently when it comes to her driving and chipping.
“But as far as putting is concerned, I have been stroking balls on our kitchen floor this winter,” Megha said. “I think that is more like what I can expect on the 18th green at Augusta.”
Joining Megha on this trip is her younger sister Sirina, who qualified in 2017, finishing ninth, but she did not make it to the National Finals this year.
“I wish she was playing again, but it is still really fun to have her here,” Megha said. “We like the game room at the hotel downtown, and we like the ice cream they serve there at dinner.”
Megha is delighted, however, that her good friend from back home, Bailey Shoemaker, is also in the field, playing Girls 12-13, and she is excited about the two of them recently qualifying for the USGA Women’s Four-Ball, which will be contested in Southern California later this spring.
“It's just as beautiful here and just as fun an experience as it was before."
The big difference in routine for Vanessa, an 11-year-old from Toronto, Canada, is that she and her father, Dino, arrived in Augusta a day earlier in 2018. “That allowed me to come out to the River Club on Friday to practice instead of waiting until Saturday,” said the youngster who made it to the Finals in Girls 7-9 in 2015 and 2016. “And I want to be sure to practice everything more than I did back then. There is no chilling this weekend.”
When asked if there was anything she wanted to do this year that she was not able to in years past, she quickly smiled and said: “I’d like to see Justin Rose, Justin Timberlake and Niall Horan come down to our practice day again. They did that a couple of years ago, and I heard it was so much fun. But I had already gone back to the hotel. So, I missed them.”
With regards to Treed, a 13-year-old from Katy, Texas, who first reached the DCP National Finals in 2014 and then returned last year, he feels a comfort in coming back to a place he has gotten to know. “I’ll still have nerves on Sunday,” he said. “But they won’t be what they were the first time I played in this championship. I was very unsure of my game then. This time, I am much more confident.”