The Most Important Golf This Week Is Not The Masters

Drive, Chip and PuttThe most important golf this week is not the Masters, but it was at Augusta National: The finals of the Drive, Chip and Putt competition.

In an era when the sport’s stakeholders are collectively wringing their hands over an apparent decline in golf participation rates, Drive, Chip and Putt is actively working to increase participation rates. Along with other initiatives such as the LPGA/USGA Girls Golf program, the PGA Of American’s Junior League and to some extent, the First Tee (although it has different objectives), has reportedly increased the number of youth golfers by 20 percent. That’s really good news for a sport whose average age has for years been climbing.

Derived from football’s Punt, Pass and Kick competition, Drive, Chip and Putt is for boys and girls age seven to fifteen. As the name implies, participants are judged on driving distance, and on chipping and putting accuracy. Players who work their way through local, sub-regional and regional championships are invited to the finals at Augusta. The competition has a big presence on the Golf Channel, which broadcasts the finals. Although the program is the brainchild of Augusta Nationa, the USGA and PGA of America have been on board since the beginning.

The competition has come a long way since its inaugural year in 2014. Today, there are hundreds of local qualifying events in all fifty states and Puerto Rico. Eight local quaifiers are held in Michigan alone. Twenty two are in California; twenty in Texas and so on.

The excitement of the kids is palpable through the television screen. Excitement is added by the presence of the professional players who make an appearance. A few of the kids who participate may actually go on to college scholarships or careers as teaching or playing pros. Of more significance, however, are the many more who will go on to become lifelong golfers. We know the game is addictive. Catch a player young enough, and they are the game’s forever.




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