Augusta dreams come true at Drive, Chip, and Putt Championship
April 02, 2017
By Ben Everill, PGATOUR.COM
- Now in its fifth installment, the Drive, Chip and Putt Championship continues to thrive as a joint initiative from the Masters Tournament, the United States Golf Association and the PGA of America. (Andrew Redington/Getty Images)
AUGUSTA, Georgia – Zachary Colon’s mother Sonya stood nervously by behind the ropes on the side of the 18th green at Augusta National Golf Club as her 13-year-old defied any sense of pressure and drained the 15-foot putt to force a tie in the Boys 13-14 division of the Drive, Chip and Putt National Finals.
When the boy from Bolton, Mass. won a subsequent playoff, she couldn’t control her pride and rushed to her son, embracing him in an emotional squeeze right there where countless legends have secured green jackets.
Who knows, perhaps in a decade or so Zachary will have the putt for a green jacket and Sonya will be embracing a Masters champion… he certainly felt like it was possible on Sunday.
“This is amazing. The best ever,” Colon said after receiving his first-place award from two-time Masters champion Bubba Watson.
It was her son's attitude to the competition that his mother had revered. While she was ecstatic with his victory, the experience of seeing him live out a dream he had put significant work towards was just too much to handle.
His father Ricardo had also been by his side as his caddy as he secured third place (eight points) in all three disciplines to tie at the top of the overall points table with Clinton Daly of Charlotte, NC.
“Mom just came over and said she was so proud of me for working so hard and for trying my best,” Colon said.
“I tried to have as much fun as possible and remember that we’re all winners already. It was so much fun. Just a great experience.”
Now in its fifth installment, the Drive, Chip and Putt Championship continues to thrive as a joint initiative from the Masters Tournament, the United States Golf Association and the PGA of America.
Points were awarded in each individual skill category (Drive, Chip and Putt), with the winner receiving 10 points, second 9 points, third 8 points and so on. The player with the most points following all three competitions was declared the overall winner of the age group.
In the drive portion, the better of two scores was used. Each golfer then took two chips, with the cumulative distance from the hole totaled used to determine the score. Players then moved to Augusta National’s 18th green where they had two putts – from 15 and 30 feet – with the cumulative distance from the hole totaled to determine the score.(Harry How/Getty Images)
In sublime weather conditions the 80 finalists across four age groups in boys and girls all lived out their dreams.
Pint-sized Maye Huang won family bragging rights when she claimed the girls 7-9 years division, while older brother Treed had to settle for fourth place in the Boys 12-13 division.
The Huang’s, from Katy, Texas., are always competitive and it was in fact a return to Augusta for Treed having been in the National Finals before.
“I always try to beat him,” Maye smiled.
“Sometimes I do in chipping contests.”
In her division, she pumped a drive 166 yards and hit one of her chips to just 14 inches. With her two putts finishing a combined 48 inches from the hole, she was the runaway winner.
“It’s so exciting. I’ll never forget this,” she said.
If you’re wondering where the next Dustin Johnson might be coming from – it could be Clay Merchent from Noblesville, Indiana.
He may have been fifth overall in the 14-15 Boys division – but he had the likes of Jason Day in awe with his 304.7-yard drive.
“It’s exciting to see all of the golfers here today,” Chairman of Augusta National Golf Club and the Masters Tournament Billy Payne said.
“It’s a culmination of a lot of hard work, so much of it by the USGA and the PGA of America. We end up with the great job of being the host to these wonderful kids, and it is so exciting. There is a tremendous amount of energy here, and it is a great way to start our Masters week.”
Joining Huang as female champions were Lucy Yuan of San Diego (ages 10-11); Alexa Pano of Lake Worth, Fla. (ages 12-13) and Savannah Grewal of Mississauga, Ontario (age 14-15).
Pano is the first two-time champion having won the Girls 10-11 division in 2016. It was her third trip to the National Finals.
“Drive, Chip and Putt is definitely more nerve-wracking than going out for 18 holes,” Pano said.
“If you make a mistake, you don’t have a lot of chances to make up for it. It’s really special to be able to experience it three times rather than just being lucky enough to do it once is really cool.”
Colon was joined by Carter Gaede of Manhattan Beach, Calif. (age 7-9); Liam Hartling of Redlands, Calif. (ages 10-11); and Mason Quagliata of Scottsdale, Ariz. (ages 14-15) as male champions.