AUGUSTA, Ga. – Junior golfers across the United States got a little closer to that dream of rolling in a game winner on Augusta National’s iconic 18th green on Monday. It will just be one Sunday earlier than they’d envisioned.
Officials announced on Monday the creation of the Drive, Chip & Putt Championship, a nationwide initiative for boys and girls ages 7 to 15 that will hold its final competition on April 6, the Sunday before next year’s Masters, on Augusta National’s practice range and the club’s 18th green. The final will be aired on Golf Channel.
“We all share the belief that if we can make golf fun kids will come,” Augusta National chairman Billy Payne said.
The initiative – a collaboration among Augusta National, the USGA and the PGA of America that will be free to enter – will begin with 110 local qualifiers and feature an estimated 17,600 participants who will be pulled from a random drawing.
Regional qualifying will be held at 11 venues across the U.S. with 88 finalists advancing from four age groups (boys and girls) based on their performance in each of the three skill competitions. Players will drive into a fairway that is 30 yards wide, have three chips from 3 to 10 yards, and putt from 6, 15 and 30 feet. Points will be awarded based on proximity to the hole and the length of each drive.
The program is in response to studies that suggest that junior participation has dropped some 30 percent in recent years.
“Our game is feeling real challenges right now and Drive, Chip & Putt is one way to grow the game,” said USGA president Glen Nager.
Patrons will be allowed to attend the final on April 6 at Augusta National, which is normally closed to the public the Sunday before the Masters. Payne estimates “several thousand” fans will be allowed on property and tickets will be issued via a lottery.