Eight overall champions crowned in second Drive, Chip and Putt National Finals
Jay Leng Jr., walking slowly with his head down, cradled his brand new trophies. He rarely took his eyes off his precious prizes.
The 9-year-old Californian didn’t know how many trophies this made – he agreed it was somewhere between 10 and 100 – but he carefully protected his new ones.
His new putting champion trophy was already broken, and three-time Masters Tournament champion Nick Faldo was the culprit.
“He asked if the Masters had super glue,” a smiling Leng said about Faldo, who congratulated and took pictures with Leng’s group.
Leng was one of eight overall champions during Sunday’s Drive, Chip and Putt National Finals at Augusta National Golf Club. Four boys and four girls became new overall champions in different age divisions. Players received 10 points for finishing first in an event and 1 for coming in last, to decide the overall victor.
Morgan Goldstein, the Girls 12-13 winner, watched her younger brother Aidan finish fourth at the finals a year ago. She had a much different view this year as she became the first to sweep all three disciplines of the competition.
“I watched from outside the ropes last year, and this year I got to be inside the ropes and putt on the 18th green,” Goldstein said. “It just felt amazing. It’s beautiful.”
Many of the young competitors mingled with some of the game’s best.
The top three finishers of the Girls 10-11 group, led by winner Lydia Swan, quickly left their families for a moment when they spotted three-time Masters champion Gary Player under the clubhouse oak tree.
Player, 79, told the girls they’re in a sport “they can play forever.”
“Here we are with all these young people playing here,” Player said. “Look at these young kids, how thrilled they were: The word was amazing. I never thought I’d see this here. It’s very exciting for me to see this.”
As a group, the winners seemed to echo one another. Highlights included driving down Magnolia Lane and putting on 18 in the competition. Six of the eight said defending champion Bubba Watson was the favorite for this year’s tournament.
Boys 14-15 winner Toby Wilson was brave enough to approach 1992 Masters champion Fred Couples.
“I just walked over there and said, ‘Hey, Mr. Couples, how are you doing?’ He’s like, ‘What’s up, bud?’ and he said, ‘So how do you like this place?’ I was like, ‘It’s pretty nice, if you ask me,’ ” Wilson said.
Girls 14-15 winner Alex Swayne practiced for Sunday by putting on the hotel room carpet to get a feel for the speedy Augusta greens. Full of seriousness, she said the carpet was “slower than it was here.”
Jake Peacock, the Boys 10-11 champion, from Alpharetta, Ga., played in front of about two dozen family members. After his awards ceremony, he got to the rope and signed his autograph for his red-wearing supporters.
“It’s like the best place on Earth, I think,” he said.