April 7-132014
2014 coverage by The Augusta Chronicle
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Eight golfers crowned at Drive, Chip and Putt championships

April 6, 2014 - 3:34 pm
Leo Cheng, an 11-year-old from Northridge, Calif., chips during the Drive, Chip and Putt Championship National Finals at Augusta National Golf Club. He was the chip champion and the overall champion for the group.  SARA CALDWELL/STAFF
SARA CALDWELL/STAFF
Leo Cheng, an 11-year-old from Northridge, Calif., chips during the Drive, Chip and Putt Championship National Finals at Augusta National Golf Club. He was the chip champion and the overall champion for the group.
By Wayne Staats |

On an April Sunday at Augusta National Golf Club, Leo Cheng walked the 18th green, lined up the 20-foot putt and found the hole.

A green jacket was waiting for the 11-year-old.

Leo, from Northridge, Calif., was one of eight overall winners at the inaugural Drive, Chip and Putt Cham­pion­ship National Finals. After he won the boys 10-11 group and made the putt on No. 18 that was similar to 2013 champion Adam Scott’s clutch make last year, Leo donned the mini-jacket his parents bought for him in China.

With Scott unexpectedly in the trophy area, Leo got a hat signed and a quick picture. The two champions stood next to another, both wearing a green jacket.

“I felt like Adam Scott when I was putting that,” Leo said with a grin.

All of the 88 participants reached Augusta through local and regional qualifying. The day’s competition started at the Tournament Practice Range, where the golfers hit two drives and two chips. From there, players moved to the practice putting green for two putts, then had one final putt on the 18th.

The championship began as an effort to grow the game, with the Masters Tournament Foun­dation joining with the U.S. Golf Association and the PGA of America to start the competition.

The eight winners came from four age groups – 7-9, 10-11, 12-13 and 14-15 – for both boys and girls. Points were given on a scale of 1 to 11, with the first-place finisher getting 11 points. The three scores were combined to get an overall winner. A golfer could also win a trophy for taking first in one of the events.

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Natalie Pietromonaco of Auburn, Calif., won the girls 12-13 chip championship and the overall title. The eighth-grader started playing about 10 years ago, after her father encouraged her to play through an incentive system.

“It started out with Starburst,” said Natalie, 13. “I started eating Starburst, and then I started actually playing after a few years. I was on the course and my dad would give me a Starburst for every hole that I played.”

Throughout Sunday, the young golfers crossed paths with Masters champions. Bubba Watson, the 2012 winner, walked down the assembled line of the 12-13 boys group and gave handshakes and pats on the back after the boys finished chipping.

“These kids are remarkable, truly remarkable,” said Billy Payne, the chairman of Augusta National and the Masters.

Fred Couples and Larry Mize, both Masters winners, shared the practice putting green with the 12-13 girls.

Patrons also lined up to watch the action, some near the 18th green as the 88 participants tried to close with a Scott-like putt. A few thrived in the high-pressure spot while anxious mothers held cameras with shaky hands and covered their faces, sometimes sneaking in peeks through fingers.

Two of the eight overall winners sank the putt on No. 18 to get another story to share when they return home.

“I would describe it as an amazing experience,” said Patrick Welch, 14, the boys 14-15 winner from Pro­vi­dence, R.I. “It’s a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to come to Augusta. I can’t wait to tell them.”

DRIVE, CHIP AND PUTT CHAMPIONSHIP

Overall champions

Girls 7-9: Kelly Xu, 9, Santa Monica, Calif.

Boys 7-9: Treed Huang, 9, Katy, Tex.

Girls 10-11: Lucy Li, 11, Redwood City, Calif.

Boys 10-11: Leo Cheng, Northridge, 11, Calif.

Girls 12-13: Natalie Pietromonaco, 13, Auburn, Calif.

Boys 12-13: Bryson Bianco, 13, Tallahassee, Fla.

Girls 14-15: Hunter Pate, 14, Las Vegas, Nev.

Boys 14-15: Patrick Welch, 14 Providence, R.I.

Drive champions

Girls 7-9: Kasey Maralack, 9, Snoqualmie, Wash.

Boys 7-9: Treed Huang, 9, Katy, Texas

Girls 10-11: Luci Li, 11, Redwood City, Calif.

Boys 10-11: Jason Quinlan, 11, Lakeville, Minn.

Girls 12-13: Christine Wang, 12, Houston

Boys 12-13: Bryson Bianco, 13, Tallahassee, Fla.

Girls 14-15: Riley Rennell, 15, Columbia, Tenn.

Boys 14-15: Patrick Welch, 14, Providence, R.I.

Chip champions

Girls 7-9: Alexa Pano, 9, Lake Worth, Fla.

Boys 7-9: Logan Medcalf, 8, Lynden, Wash.

Girls 10-11: Lucy Li, 11, Redwood City, Calif.

Boys 10-11: Leo Cheng, 11, Northridge, Calif.

Girls 12-13: Natalie Pietromonaco, 13, Auburn, Calif.

Boys 12-13: Jack McMullin, 12, Seattle

Girls 14-15: Johanna Alberto, 15, Kingwood, Texas

Boys 14-15: Juan Contreras, 15, Phoenix, Ariz.

Putt champions

Girls 7-9: Zell Wilson, 9, Chicago

Boys 7-9: Peyton Rho, 8, Royal Palm Beach, Fla.

Girls 10-11: Meghan Lane, 11, Wilton, Conn.

Boys 10-11: Leo Cheng, 11, Northridge, Calif.

Girls 12-13: Trinity King, 12, Arlington, Texas

Boys 12-13: Remi Chartier, 12, Beaconsfield, Quebec

Girls 14-15: Maddy Kokich, 15, University Place, Wash.

Boys 14-15: Chase Hurt, 15, Destin, Fla.

EVENT TO EXPAND

The Drive, Chip and Putt Championship will expand in 2015 and offer nearly triple the opportunities to qualify for the finals at Augusta National Golf Club.

The road to the 2015 finals will start this year with 256 local qualifying sites and up to 50,000 participants.

Here’s how it will work:

Local qualifying (May/June/July): More than 50,000 total participants; 256 host sites and three juniors advance in each age/gender category from every venue.

Sub-Regional (August): More than 6,000 total participants; 50 host sites and two juniors advance in each age/gender category from every venue.

Regional (September): 800 total participants; 10 host sites and one junior advances in each age/gender category from every venue.

National Finals (April 5, 2015): 80 total participants at Augusta National Golf Club.

To register, visit www.DriveChipandPutt.com.

2015 TICKETS

Golf fans wishing to attend next year’s finals can request a ticket application at www.DriveChipandPutt.com. Tickets will be sold in advance, by random selection, and only after applying online. Applications will be e-mailed in September.

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