Friendship and competition intersected in the best of ways for two participants in the Drive, Chip and Putt National Finals at Augusta National Golf Club.
Dinner was going to taste good for Yana Wilson and Ali Mulhall, teenagers and best pals from Henderson, Nev., who definitely had something to celebrate after winning their respective age groups in the skills contest on a blue-sky Sunday in Georgia. “Probably have dinner,” Wilson said, “a nice dinner.”
The Girls 12-13 champion in 2019, Wilson won that division again shortly after finding out that Mulhall was best in Girls 14-15 while walking from the Tournament Practice Area to the putting portion of the competition on the 18th green, where the results of Mulhall’s group were on the large leader board.
“I did see that she won,” Wilson said. “It was crazy. I kind of saw her name up there, but I wanted to make sure. I took out my rangefinder and looked and told Mom that Ali had won. It was really cool. I couldn’t let her win alone. I wanted to win, too.”
Wilson, 14, and Mulhall, 15, ninth-graders who met seven years ago, were among eight DCP champions in a competition that was not held in 2020 because of the COVID-19 pandemic, making it a long wait since the National Finalists were determined through qualifying 19 months ago.
“I think it made it more special,” said Macy Pate, from Winston-Salem, N.C., who finished fifth in Girls 14-15. “It made me more excited to come, and it’s almost like we had a whole year to get better and work on all of our games, so that was really cool. Now we all have this special memory of Augusta.”
Other age-group champions:
- Boys 7-9, Lucas Bernstein, Fresno, Calif.
- Boys 10-11, Brady Barnum, Dublin, Ohio
- Boys 12-13, Sam Udovich, Inver Grove Heights, Minn.
- Boys 14-15, Jaivir Pande, Houston, Texas
- Girls 7-9, Alexis Card, Cambridge, Ontario, Canada
- Girls 10-11, Elyse Meerdink, Tampa, Fla.
Barnum, Pande and Mulhall scored the most points, 28 each, in winning their divisions. Barnum (Drive, Putt) and Mulhall (Drive, Chip) won two categories, while Pande won Putt and was second in Drive and Chip in earning the widest victory margin (seven points) of the day.
Barnum, Wilson and Mulhall were making their second appearance at the National Finals, while Udovich was at Augusta National for the third time. Kasey Maralack of Snoqualmie, Wash., runner-up in Girls 14-15, became only the fourth four-time finalist.
For Pande, success came after having lost to one of the four-time finalists, Treed Huang, in the regionals in 2017 and 2019. Pande, a Houston resident who learned golf on trips to visit his grandfather in Nepal, finished his day in style by sinking the last putt of the competition from 15 feet. Huang was on site with members of Pande’s family, cheering on his good friend.
I feel like we both will be playing, hopefully, in the last group at ANWA one day.
Mulhall tied for seventh in Girls 12-13 in 2018, then watched on television as Wilson claimed the title two years ago.
“I think the first year I was more in awe of what was happening and where I was at, and this year I kept my nerves more steady,” Mulhall said. “I was able to take it in more and just stay even throughout the whole competition.”
Describing Wilson as “someone who is just as competitive as I am,” Mulhall, like her best friend, has many tournament victories already. Mulhall played in the Nevada Open last year, the first female to compete in the event, after impressing the host professional by shooting a 66 on a course measuring 7,200 yards.
If they keep progressing, the two Nevadans might well make the 2,100-mile journey to Augusta to compete in the Augusta National Women’s Amateur.
“I’d love to play in ANWA, it’s honestly a dream come true,” Wilson said. “I feel like we both will be playing, hopefully, in the last group at ANWA one day. I think it will be the best time of our lives with the past champions of Augusta up there.”
For now, they can revel in being champions on a special day of their own.
“Our goal is quite simple,” said Fred Ridley, Chairman of Augusta National Golf Club and the Masters Tournament, of the DCP, which was founded in 2013. “That is to provide opportunities to inspire young boys and girls to develop and deepen their love for the great game of golf.”