Today belonged to the kids at Augusta National Golf Club. It all started a year ago. On April 14, 2013, to promote interest and participation in the game of golf The Masters Foundation, the USGA, and the PGA announced the inauguration of a national youth competition focusing on driving, chipping and putting that would conclude at Augusta National Golf Club the Sunday before the week-long Masters Tournament.
For the past year boys and girls ages 7-15 have participated in and advanced through local and regional qualifying competitions and today eighty-eight boys and girls, with smiles and tears and often with mothers and fathers beaming and weeping themselves, showed their stuff in an exhibition of golf’s basic skills.
One of Augusta National’s newest members, Condoleezza Rice, resplendent in her green member’s jacket, circulated ambassadorially among the participants shaking hands, smiling, soothing, supporting, and congratulating them.
The winners of the age and gender divisions, Kelly Xu (Girls 7-9), who struggled to balance a trophy almost as big as she with congratulatory handshakes, Treed Huang (Boys 7-9), Lucy Li (Girls 10-11), who slammed her drive 227 yards, Leo Cheng (Boys 10-11), Natalie Pietromonaco (Girls 12-13), Bryson Bianco (Boys 12-13), Hunter Pate (Girls 14-15), and Patrick Welch (Boys 14-15), who charged in a 20 footer on the iconic 18th green (complete with the pin cut in its traditional Sunday location) lined up and accepted their trophies from Billy Payne, Augusta National Chairman.
Responding to the widespread and interest in this inaugural event, officials have announced that next year’s championship will be expanded. There will be 256 local qualifying sites with enough capacity for 50,000 participants, up from about 15,000 initial participants this year.
A beaming Billy Payne declared, “We are going to have a lot of kids who want to find their way to Augusta National.”
With Condoleezza Rice and Darla Moore at the spearhead, one can only imagine how an influx of eager girls and boys might change the cultural contours of Augusta National Golf Club and The Masters Tournament!