By John Boyette
AUGUSTA — William Brandenburg is hoping success at one iconic golf venue in a couple of weeks will earn him a trip to another special venue.
The 8-year-old from Evans, Ga., finished second in his division of the subregional qualifier at Augusta Country Club for the Drive, Chip and Putt competition August 20. He will compete in the regional qualifier at Pinehurst, N.C., on Sept. 4, and if he wins there, he will qualify for the National Finals on April 2 at Augusta National Golf Club.
“I’d just be excited,” Brandenburg said after receiving his second place medal.
Golf has been nearly a lifelong affair for Brandenburg. He started playing when he was 18 months old, and he has learned the game at West Lake Country Club, also local to Augusta.
His parents, Beau and Lindsey Brandenburg, cheered him on Saturday as 120 junior golfers converged on Augusta Country Club for the subregional.
“We’re just happy that he did his best and had a good attitude, and that it ended up that he did well enough to move on,” his father said. “We’re excited for him.”
William accumulated 100 points by finishing first in driving and third in putting.
What will he work on the most between now and his trip to Pinehurst?
“I’ll practice chipping the most,” he said.
Golfers received points in the three categories that make up the name of the competition. The top two in each age division – 7-9, 10-11, 12-13 and 14-15 – for boys and girls advanced to Pinehurst.
In addition to the gold, silver and bronze medals for the top three competitors in each category, similar prizes were awarded in each of the individual disciplines.
Staci Pla of Palm Beach Gardens, Fla., placed in all three categories as she won the Girls 10-11 division. She was first in driving, and second in chipping and putting as she totaled 115 points.
Stacy, who is 9 but will be 10 when the National Finals are held next year, can drive the ball almost 200 yards.
“At first I was a little scared,” she said. “But after my drives, I got more confidence.”
She said her mother is her favorite golfer, and with good reason: Sherri Pla is the head PGA professional at Sandhill Crane Golf Club. She helped her daughter take up the game five years ago.
Staci has competed in the Drive, Chip and Putt Championship three times, and making it to Augusta would be special, she said.
“Probably the coolest thing in my life,” Staci added.
Weather chased the competitors off the course when the horn blew just after 4 p.m., but after a short delay play resumed.
For many of the competitors, the Augusta Country Club venue was as close as they have ever been to Augusta National. The two courses are neighbors, with Augusta National’s famed Amen Corner located next to Augusta Country Club’s ninth hole.
One competitor with a name familiar to Masters Tournament patrons was Isabel Immelman, who competed in the 7-9 Girls age division. She is the niece of 2008 Masters champion Trevor Immelman of South Africa.
The younger Immelman tied for third, but did not prevail on tiebreakers. Her dad Mark, the golf coach at Columbus State, and mom Tracy were on hand to offer encouragement.
There were examples of sportsmanship all around, including the young boy who came up and congratulated William Brandenburg after he advanced.
For Brandenburg, he could be the first golfer from the Augusta area to make it all the way to the National Finals. That would be a thrill for the entire family, his father said.
“We love golf, we love the Masters and we usually get to go,” Beau Brandenburg said. “But it would be a different feeling walking through if he were to make it that far. We know he’ll try his best, and we’re proud of him either way.”
John Boyette is Sports Editor of The Augusta Chronicle. Photos provided by Todd Bennett, Mulitmedia Chief of The Augusta Chronicle.