USGA Drive, Chip and Putt Qualifiers Begin (Video)

Apr 6, 2014; Augusta, GA, USA; Drive chip and putt participants during a practice round for the 2014 The Masters golf tournament at Augusta National. Mandatory Credit: Jack Gruber-USA TODAY Sports

While some of us are watching Rory McIlroy, Ricky Fowler and Martin Kaymer slug it out for command of the leaderboard at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Golf Championship and others of us are tapping our fingers and waiting impatiently for Stacy Lewis, Lydia Ko and Inbee Park to do the same thing at the Coates Golf Championship next week, the junior golfers have their eyes on the 2016 Drive, Chip and Putt Championship.

Who could forget the 2014 Drive, Chip and Putt finals?  With Condoleezza Rice providing support and encouragement to one contestant after another, with Bubba Watson shaking hands up and down the range and Jordan Spieth offering fist bumps, we watched 11-year old Leo Cheng drain a putt that would have made Rory McIlroy proud and 8-year old Kelley Xu deliver a performance equal to Lydia Ko’s and claim an historic record: the first female champion at Augusta National Golf Club!

The 2015 finalists are in feverish practice for this year’s contest, and the 2016 hopefuls need to start signing up for the first stage of the next year-long competition.

Throughout this summer, young gofers can enter the competition at one of 255 local sites located throughout the US.  Follow this link for a full list of qualifying sites.

Three youth, ages 7-16, in each age/gender category from each site will advance to the next stage of the year-long competition, the Sub-Regional competition.

During July and August 45 sub-regional events will narrow the field, with two juniors in every age/gender category from all 45 venues advancing to 10 Regional competitions during September 2015.

The regional venues would thrill and challenge all of us: Chambers Bay Golf Course (University Place, Wash., site of the 2015 U.S. Open conducted by the USGA), Congressional Country Club (Bethesda, Md.), Golf Club of Houston (Humble, Texas), Hazeltine National Golf Club (Chaska, Minn., site of the 2016 Ryder Cup), Medinah Country Club (Medinah, Ill.), Oakmont Country Club (Oakmont, Pa., site of the 2016 U.S. Open), The Country Club (Brookline, Mass.), Torrey Pines Golf Course (La Jolla, Calif., site of the 2021 U.S. Open), TPC Sawgrass (Ponte Vedra Beach, Fla.) and Valhalla Golf Club (Louisville, Ky., site of the 2014 PGA Championship).

One junior golfer from each age/gender category — 80 total participants — will advance to the Drive, Chip and Putt National Championship, held for the 3rd time on the Sunday before the beginning of Masters Week at Augusta National Golf Club.

Do you know a junior golfer who’d like to get involved?  Follow this link for 2016 Drive, Chip & Putt registration information.