At long last, the wait is over for 80 eager finalists.
It was still dark on Sunday morning when vans carrying contestants for the Drive, Chip and Putt National Finals started to ease down Magnolia Lane, the only light in the sky coming from a perfectly shaped half moon. Temperatures were brisk, hovering just above 40 degrees, and blooming magenta azaleas lent a bit of brightness to the scene. Birds were chirping from the trees as the vehicles turned into the Founders Circle in front of the Clubhouse at Augusta National Golf Club and began discharging their passengers.
A couple of Augusta National members, clad in their Green Jackets, greeted the youngsters with smiles, fist bumps and words of welcome and encouragement. Once all 10 competitors for the first age group to arrive, the Girls 14-15 division, had disembarked, they made their way with their “caddies” to the short-game area to warm up.
Finally, after being cancelled last year due to the pandemic, the DCP was being played again.
Other vans followed down Magnolia Lane as those young women started chipping, the sounds of urethane balls clicking against steel club faces rising from the area around the elevated green. The players seemed uncharacteristically quiet for teenagers, but that no doubt had something to do with the early hour as well as the magnitude of the moment. Augusta National has a way of stilling even the garrulous golfer, especially one seeing it for the first time.
Then, there was the matter of the competition itself. Clearly, this was not a time for small talk. The players needed to prepare and find focus.
The girls stayed at the short game area for a spell, then followed a standard bearer clad in a white jumpsuit to the West Range to tune up for the driving competition. They started off by hitting irons before working their way up to drivers as the half moon set and the sun started to peek over the stately pines. Then, the players made their way over to the Tournament Practice Area, where every shot would count.
“We have been looking forward to this for a long time,” said Jen Brody of Grand Blanc, Mich., whose daughter, Kate, a 1.4 handicap, was competing in her first DCP after making it to regionals on three previous occasions. “But the good news is that through the pandemic, the kids have had nothing else to do but play golf. So, they should be ready.”
Almost as soon as Brody uttered those words, it was time for the competition begin – and for Kate to hit her first drives.
At long last, the wait was over.