Some wait a lifetime for the opportunity to play at Augusta National, home of the Masters. Henry Augenstein,15, of Hammond School will get that chance on Sunday, a few days before this year’s Masters starts on Thursday.
Augenstein is one of 88 junior golfers who qualified to compete in the Drive, Chip and Putt National Championship at Augusta.
“I feel like I’ve won just by being there,” Augenstein said. “It’s such an honor to play at Augusta National.”
He credits his early start in golf – pairing up with his father or grandfather for rounds at the age of 7 – for the dream-come-true experience.
“I’ve learned more things about golf over the years, I understand more aspects of it. If I had started later, I wouldn’t be as good at it as I am right now,” Augenstein said.
The teen played for the Class 3A champion A.C. Flora Falcons as an eighth-grader and has been a part of two SCISA state titles at Hammond.
Augenstein earned his spot in the Drive, Chip and Putt finals at a regional qualifier this past August. He won his age division in the overall competition and was a medalist in the driving portion with a drive of 260 yards.
The road to Augusta National began with local qualifying, which involved more than 10,000 boys and girls who competed at 110 sites during June and July. The top two scorers in eight different age/gender brackets from each local qualifier advanced to regional qualifying, which was conducted in 11 regions throughout August.
Founded in collaboration by the Masters Tournament Foundation, The PGA of America and the United States Golf Association, the Drive, Chip and Putt Championship is a free, nationwide junior skills competition open to boys and girls ages 7-15 to increase interest in golf.
“Generations of players have been inspired by the dream of sinking a winning putt on the 18th green at Augusta National,” Masterschairman Billy Payne said in a statement. “These 88 talented kids now have an exciting opportunity to make that dream a reality and inspire more young people to play this great game.”
Augenstein said he got his inspiration from his golf-enthusiast family and was destined to play the sport.
“We’ve always had a membership to some golf club, for as long as I can remember, so I would have started playing eventually, just maybe not as young,” he said.
Augenstein’s private coach, Kevin Britt, said the teen is more mature and motivated than many.
“Henry has a lot of passion for the game and desire to get better. So every time he comes out, he’s very coachable and willing to work,” Britt said.
Augenstein said he has been working with Britt for 18 months. “He’s done amazing things for my swing; he’s brought my handicap down about 10 shots,” Augenstein said.
Britt is looking for more from Augenstein in the future.
“I hope he’ll continue to play with passion and desire and strive to get better. It’s a big stage, and hopefully it is going to help open his eyes to his potential and what the future could hold for him,” Britt said.
What: Drive, Chip and Putt National Finals
When: Sunday at Augusta National Golf Club
TV: Golf Channel, 9 a.m.-1 p.m.