By Glae Thien
SAN DIEGO – It will go down as a chip shot to remember for 15-year-old Arielle Keating.
The Colorado Springs, Colo., golfer holed the second of her three chip shots from 15 feet in winning the Girls 14-15 Division of regional qualifying for the third annual Drive, Putt & Chip Championship at Torrey Pines Golf Course on Saturday, Sept. 19.
“It was very exciting, actually a lucky shot, or more luck than skill,” said Keating, who was competing for the last time in DCP’s oldest age division. “I hit it hard. If I missed it, I probably would have gotten one point, but I hit it straight.”
With the victory at the site of an annual PGA Tour event as well as the 2008 and 2021 U.S. Open Championships, Keating will head to the national finals at the Augusta National Golf Club on April 3, a day ahead of Masters Tournament week.
“I was quite confident, but also really, really nervous flying all the way from Colorado,” the 5-foot-9 golfer said. “Then I just went out to have fun.”
Winners advanced from four boys and girls age groups in this, one of 10 regional finals across the country for the 2016 DCP Championship.
The Boys 14-15 Division title went to Luke Trujillo, also of Colorado Springs, who prevailed in a tiebreaker for putting (55-40) after tying Caden Christopherson, of Chandler, Ariz., at 129.
“I’m really excited right now. I really didn’t expect to win,” Trujillo said. “I’ve thought about Augusta since the local qualifier, and I can’t get it out of my head.”
Caitlyn Chin, of Greenwood, Colo., got a nice surprise in the Girls 7-9 Division. Although her score was 2 points lower than her sub-regional performance, she won with a 78.
“I thought I wasn’t going to win,” Chin said. “So when I saw that I did, I was really happy and excited to be going to Augusta.”
After a disappointing showing a year ago, Leigh Chien, of Irvine, Calif., prevailed over defending champion Kelly Xu in the Girls 10-11 Division by 14 points at 141.
“Since this was my second time, I was pretty confident,” said Chien, who led her division with 65 points in putting. “This is really good because I can tell my [older] brother that I won. I’m really excited.”
Kayla Sam, of Anaheim Hills, Calif., also benefited from a repeat visit to Torrey Pines, as she won the Girls 12-13 Division with 133 points. It also means that Sam will play golf outside of California and Nevada for the first time.
“I’m really happy and excited because I haven’t really traveled much,” Sam said. “I thought I could win, but I was still worried.”
In the Boys 7-9 Division, Adriel Luis Abaoag, of Burbank, Calif., holed a 6-foot putt on his first shot of the event to set the tone for a winning effort with 108 points.
“After I made the first putt, I felt confident,” said Abaoag, who scored 65 points in putting. “Then I did well because I felt that way.”
Boys 11-12 Division winner Nathan Sampson, of Temecula, Calif., holed his 30-foot putt to highlight his victory with 138 points, 4 ahead of Adam Miller, of Phoenix, Ariz.
“That putt was amazing,” said Sampson, who was not able to advance out of the local level last year. “Usually, driving is the strongest part of my game.”
Chipping made the different for San Diego’s Eric Doyle, who took the 12-13 Boys Division title with 153 points, including 55 in chipping.
“I knew it’d be hard,” Doyle said. “I’m super-excited because last year I went to Augusta as a spectator with my dad, and it was one of my best experiences.”