Putting Key At The Country Club

By Ron Driscoll

Last year, Brian Glennon of Hingham, Mass., got sick and was unable to compete in the sub-regional round of the third annual Drive, Chip & Putt Championship. This year, Glennon more than made up for his 2015 absence with a clutch performance in the putting round of the regional competition at The Country Club in Brookline, Mass., to move on to Augusta National Golf Club for the 2017 DCP National Finals, scheduled for the eve of Masters Tournament week.

“After the chipping, I didn’t feel that much pressure, because I didn’t feel like I had that good of a chance,” said Glennon, 14, who just started eighth grade at the Hingham Middle School. “But after I made my first two putts, I figured maybe I have a chance.”

After holing the 6-foot and 15-foot putts, Glennon sized up his 30-foot try.

“It broke a lot more than I thought it would,” said Glennon, who plays out of Cohasset (Mass.) Country Club and credits his father, Matt, with instilling a love for the game in him. “But I put a good stroke on it, and it stayed in the 15-point area. I never thought I could make it this far, but I guess I’m here and I won.”

Indeed, Glennon outlasted a field of nine other 14-15-year-olds who got to The Country Club by surviving local and sub-regional qualifying. On a sunny and blustery Sunday, Glennon’s total of 118 points – 65 of them via putting – topped Anthony Cavotta of Saratoga Springs, N.Y., by six points, and Jared Walter of South Windsor, Conn., by nine points.

“Early on, my long game was better, and my putting was kind of lacking,” said Glennon. “My Dad told me I needed to step up my putting and chipping, and as I did that, it got a little better, and now I’m here.”

“Here” for Glennon was being interviewed by Golf Channel, close by the 11th and 12th holes of the club’s championship course, where the USA won a dramatic Ryder Cup victory in 1999 and Curtis Strange outlasted Nick Faldo in a U.S. Open playoff in 1988. The club will host its fourth U.S. Open in 2022.

When Tyler Gosselin of The Country Club’s golf staff greeted each group of 10 players in eight age and gender categories, he noted that they were getting a “sneak preview” of the course ahead of the U.S. Open, and Gosselin saw a lot of raised hands when he asked which of the youngsters had seen the film “The Greatest Game Ever Played,” or heard of Matthew Fitzpatrick. The film highlights Francis Ouimet’s landmark victory in the 1913 U.S. Open at Brookline, and Fitzpatrick won the U.S. Amateur here 100 years later. He will play for Team Europe next week in the Ryder Cup.

Among the others to make it to the 2017 DCP National Finals was Carlee Meilleur, of Lansdowne, Ontario, Canada. Carlee won the Girls 7-9 division in her first attempt at DCP, thanks to 55 points in the putting leg of the competition. That gave her a total of 105 points, three more than Hanley Correia of Norton, Mass.

Carlee started playing at age 5 when her parents began playing and she tagged along for their lessons with Earl Hawkins at Orange County National in Orlando, Fla.

Michael Bruce, 9, of Fort Fairfield, Maine, is another player who credits improved work on the putting green for his victory in the Boys 7-9 division. Michael’s 99 points – 55 with the putter – edged Isaiah Abel, of Poughkeepsie, N.Y., by seven points.

“I can’t express how excited I am right now,” said Michael, who finished fifth at this regional last year. “Last time, my 30-footer just didn’t help me and that was the whole reason I didn’t go. So I worked on it a lot and this time, I sunk it. Usually my putting is OK, but I think today was the best I’ve ever done.”

Kennedy Swedick, of Altamont, N.Y., worked hard over the past year for her first try at DCP after watching the National Finals on TV last April.

“Almost every single day, I went out and practiced for like two hours,” said Kennedy, 10. “And the last two weeks, I’ve been practicing very hard to try to make it to Augusta, so I guess I worked hard enough.”

After a bit of a packing miscue for his trip to The Country Club, Eric Yun might double-check his wardrobe when he packs for Augusta National next April. The Menlo Park, Calif., resident won his 10-11 Boys Division, but not before a hurried trip to the store to buy a pair of pants after he forgot to pack the pair he picked out.

“I was nervous at first, but once I started playing, it went away,” said Yun. “It’s going to be fun to ride down Magnolia Lane. I hope I don’t forget my pants again – that would be a problem.”

Alexa Pano will compete at Augusta National for the third time – in her third different age group.

“In the first year, there were only two stages,” said Alexa, of Lake Worth, Fla. “Now there are three stages and a lot more players all over the country, so to make it back is just incredible.”

Zachary Colon, of Bolton, Mass., earned the closest victory of the day, edging Darren Choi, of Toronto, Canada, by two points, 125-123, in the 12-13 Boys Division.

“I didn’t ever quit,” said Zachary, who lost out in the regional finals last year. “I wanted to prove it to myself that I could do it. I hit one drive pretty bad – I only got 4 points. I had to make it up somehow, and I did it on the chipping.”

Gabrielle Shieh of Carlisle, Mass., had quite a weekend, winning a Challenge Cup event at Wannamoisett Country Club in Rhode Island on Saturday, then capturing the Girls 14-15 division on Sunday.

The freshman at Concord-Carlisle High School, who qualified for the U.S. Girls’ Junior Championship in July, said, “I felt like it was the putting that did it for me. I knew I was the last one putting, so I knew I was in first place, but I didn’t know by how much.”