Two days before she flew across the country for the Drive, Chip and Putt National Finals, her anticipation at last was on the doorstep of reality.
“I’m super excited,” Kasey Maralack said before making the journey from her home in the Pacific Northwest to Augusta. “It finally feels real. I qualified in September of 2019. It’s been so long.”
The 2020 DCP competition was canceled because of COVID-19 safety concerns. Participants who qualified to be at Augusta National Golf Club last April have had to wait an extra 12 months to compete against fellow junior golfers from around the United States.
Although the 2021 National Finals is a delayed experience for Maralack, one of 10 competitors in the Girls 14-15 age division, it isn’t a new one. Now 16 years old—a consequence of the postponed competition—with her appearance this weekend Maralack joins a select cadre of four-time participants: Vanessa Borovilos, Treed Huang and Megha Ganne.
Maralack, an 11th grader at Mount Si High School in Snoqualmie, Wash., outside Seattle, advanced to Augusta National in 2014 (10th, Girls 7-9), 2018 (tied for second, Girls 12-13) and 2019 (seventh, Girls 14-15).
“My first thought is to just take it all in and enjoy this because I’ll be aged out after this one,” Maralack said. “I should be able learn from what I’ve experienced in my three trips. I came so close to winning in 2018, when it came down to a putt.”
Three years ago, Maralack led through the driving and chipping stages. It boiled down to her being fewer than a combined 2 feet, 3 inches from the cup on her two putts. Her first attempt finished 15 inches away. “I needed to get the other one within a foot to win the entire thing,” said Maralack, who ran her second putt several feet by the hole and shared runner-up honors behind champion Sara Im.
“Huge learning experience,” Maralack said. “I’ve never been in a situation where you’re seeing your name on the big board and there are cameras around and everything. Even though it didn’t go as I wanted it to, that was definitely one of my most memorable experiences.”
Among other memorable times in her trips to Augusta National was meeting three-time Masters champion Gary Player of South Africa. Maralack’s parents, David and Chriscentia, were born in Cape Town, as was Kasey’s 22-year-old sister, Caitlan, prior to the family moving to the United States in 2000.
Kasey has observed other top professionals annually in the Boeing Classic, a PGA Tour Champions event contested on her home course, The Club at Snoqualmie Ridge.
“We always watch Bernhard Langer and Tom Kite, and Vijay Singh came the last two years or so,” Maralack said. “It’s amazing to see those legends on my home course I play every week.”
I’ve never been in a situation where you’re seeing your name on the big board and there are cameras around and everything. Even though it didn’t go as I wanted it to, that was definitely one of my most memorable experiences.
Plenty of Maralack’s rounds have been in the company of her favorite golf partners, her dad and sister. Caitlan was on the women’s golf team at the University of Hartford, graduating last year with a triple major. “Growing up, my mindset was to get good enough to beat her,” Kasey said.
Maralack qualified for her fourth National Finals with an eight-point victory in the regional at Chambers Bay, site of the 2015 U.S. Open, displaying the kind of consistency (second place in each of the three skills) that would serve her well at Augusta. The driver is her favorite club, but she believes chipping is her strongest skill. Maralack has improved her overall game, achieving a long-sought goal.
“My handicap just dropped to a plus-2 which is something I’m super proud of,” said Maralack, whose low round is 68 in a district junior tournament a couple of years ago. “I’ve been trying to become a scratch golfer for the longest time, and I finally got there.”
One goal met, and another is in reach for Maralack at Augusta National this weekend.