Players make history at Drive, Chip & Putt National Finals
Girl and boy become second, third ever to make both attempts in putting part of competition
April 07, 2019
By Cameron Morfit, PGATOUR.COM
- Overall winners for each division celebrate with their trophies at Augusta National Golf Club. (David Cannon/Getty Images)
AUGUSTA, Ga. – Sophia Li of Fresh Meadows, New York, made history as she made both putts, from 30 and 15 feet, to win the Girls 10, 11 Division at the Drive, Chip & Putt National Finals at Augusta National on Sunday.
Li became the first girl in the six-year history of the event to make both.
“It’s so exciting I can’t find a word for it, really,” Li said with a laugh. “It’s such a big event. I’m shocked to win it. It kind of feels like a responsibility to the other kids. I have to inspire them and allow them to follow their dreams.”
Garret Ebbert of Longwood, Florida, who tied for third in the Boys 12, 13 Division, also made both putts. He and Li were just the second and third players to make both attempts in the putting portion of the Drive, Chip & Putt National Finals, which this year featured 40 boys and 40 girls from 27 U.S. states, four Canadian provinces, and France.
In what has become a highly anticipated pre-Masters tradition, kids from 7-15 competed in four age categories as drizzly skies brightened and the sun poked through the clouds. Just to get here they had to make it through local, sub-regional and regional qualifying.
They wore uniforms of solid-colored shirts and caps, but also a pink belt, blue fingernail polish, or a pair of socks commemorating Jack Nicklaus’ 1986 Masters win. They tried to ignore the cameras, one of which hovered conspicuously on a long boom behind the second (15-foot) putt at the 18th green.
“I try to focus on what I’m doing and pretend it’s just me,” said Angela Zhang of Bellevue, Washington, who won the Girls 7-9 Division and then deftly handled interviews in Chinese and English.
Although she stands just 4 feet, 10 inches tall, and weighs only 75 pounds, Zhang belted a 189-yard drive. Told that all her weightlifting must be paying off, she giggled and shook her head.
Fathers/caddies were in abundance, but there were also moms and aunts and uncles and coaches, plus assorted friends and other family members. Other supporters cheered the kids on from watch parties back home. One boy, asked by a volunteer at the trophy ceremony if he wanted her hold his water bottle, said, “Oh, yes, thank you. I can’t have my fans see me with this.”
Patrick Reed, Bubba Watson, Bernhard Langer, Mark O’Meara, Adam Scott and Mike Weir were among the Masters champions on hand to congratulate the winners, as were legendary LPGA golfers like Nancy Lopez and Annika Sorenstam.
“There was nothing like this when I was a kid,” Weir said before going out to play a practice round. “This is pretty cool to be a part of.”
Lopez, who never had much luck getting her own daughters to play, took a special joy in seeing the kids at the Drive, Chip & Putt.
“It’s fun to see the next generation of golfers have somewhere to set a goal and be a part of,” she said. “I went to dinner with them last night (at the Drive, Chip & Putt reception for contestants and their families). Of course, they’re all eating mac and cheese, hot dogs and chicken fingers.”
And ice cream. Don’t forget the ice cream.
Here are the results:
1 – Conner Ford, Mount Vernon, K.Y.; 2 – Ryan Nana Tanke, Paris; 3 – Benny Nelson, Los Angeles
1 – Angela Zhang, Bellevue, Washington; T2 – Milan Norton, Las Vegas, Nevada; T2 – Briel Royce, Lake Nona, Florida.
1 – Sahish Reddy, Duluth, Georgia; 2 – Patmon Malcom, Alpharetta, Georgia; T3 – Ryder Rasmussen, San Juan Capistrano, California, and Aiden Tiet, Milpitas, California.
1 – Sophia Li, Fresh Meadows, New York; 2 – Ariana Silva, Sunrise, Florida; 3 – Anna Huang, Vancouver, B.C., Canada
1 – Matthew Vital, Bethlehem, Pennsylvania; 2 – Ryder Cowan, Edmond, Oklahoma; T3 – Garret Ebbert, Longwood, Florida, and P.J. Maybank III, Cheboygan, Michigan.
1 – Yana Wilson, Henderson, Nevada; 2 – Chunya Boonta, Centennial, Colorado; 3 – Kate Barber, Savannah, Georgia.
1 – Treed Huang, Katy, Texas; 2 – Nathan Drogin, Essex Fells, New Jersey; 3 – Ian Bruchhauser, Anchorage, Alaska.
1 – Nicole Gal, Oakville, Ontario, Canada; 2 – Megha Ganne, Holmdel, New Jersey; 3 – Sarah Balding, Brookfield, Wisconsin.