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DC&P champions experience Masters feeling

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AUGUSTA, Ga. – Katherine Schuster had an idea what was at stake. With just two putts remaining in the 14-15 girls division at the Drive, Chip & Putt National Finals, the North Carolina teen needed to make the biggest putt of her young life.

And the setting couldn’t be better.

“When it was about 6 feet out I thought I’d made it, but I didn’t want to celebrate too early. I’ve done that before,” smiled Schuster, who rolled in her first attempt from 30 feet on Augusta National’s iconic 18th green.

Schuster didn’t win the putting portion of the finals, but she earned enough points (24.5) to claim the 14-15 girls title.

“After I hit the putt I had to remind myself to breathe. I was shaking I was so nervous,” she said.

Schuster was hardly the only nervous participant on Sunday at Augusta National, where 80 juniors competed in eight different divisions for national titles.

“It feels like I won the Masters,” smiled Taighan Chea, who won the boys 7-9 division with 27 points.

Launched in 2013, the Drive, Chip & Putt draws international players via a series of qualifiers and concludes the Sunday before the Masters with juniors earning points based on the length of their drive and the distance to the pin in the chipping and putting portion of the competition.

“It’s pretty amazing and it’s done a lot of good for junior golf,” said Adam Scott, who presented Schuster her trophy. “I sat and watched a few of the kids this morning on the range and some of the swings were perfectly on plane.”

Brendan Valdes from Orlando, Fla., finished tied for the boys 14-15 division lead with Josh Lavely, and won a putting playoff; while Tip Price (26 points) of Greenville, S.C., was the boys 10-11 champion and P.J. Maybank III (25 points) of Cheboygan, Mich., took the boys 12-13 title.

Ella June Hannant (25 points) of Pikeville, N.C., won the girls 7-9 division; Vanessa Borovilos (24 points) of Canada took the girls 10-11 title and Sara Im (26 points) of Duluth, Ga., was the girls 12-13 division winner.