Youngsters from across the nation strive to take the final step toward a date at Augusta National Golf Club in the Drive, Chip and Putt competition’s regional tournaments, and three from the Columbia area will take their shots Saturday in Falls Church, Va.
Their names are Zantoria Goodwin (girls’ 7-9 age group), Adam Hunt (boys’ 7-9) and Parker Stavley (girls’ 12-13), and they share a love for golf – the object of the program sponsored by Augusta National, the United States Golf Association and the PGA of America.
“We’re excited,” Curtis Goodwin, Zantoria’s dad and golf teacher, said, perhaps speaking for all the families with players who have reached the equivalent of the national semifinals.
Sixteen players advanced to the Falls Church competition in the sub-regional two weeks ago at Fort Jackson Golf Club. The regional winners in each of eight age groups will play for the championship on the Sunday prior to the 2015 Masters.
Zantoria Goodwin, a 9-year-old fourth-grader at Arden Elementary, took up the game six years ago, following in the footsteps of her dad and older brother Daevon, a member of the Keenan High team. She participated in the First Tee program and began playing in South Carolina Junior Golf Association events at age 7 against older girls.
“I’ve been practicing after school,” Zantoria said. “Chipping is going to be really important (in the regional.)”
She won her age group in both the local and sub-regional competition, and she will have a large cheering section. Parents Curtis and Rhondalyn Goodwin will be joined by grandparents, aunts and uncles “and maybe some cousins” in making the journey, Curtis Goodwin said.
“Zantoria took to the game naturally,” he said. “I would be showing her older brother some things, and she would be standing there listening and doing the same things. She picked up the game very quickly practicing in the yard. Working with her has another benefit; it’s made my game better, too.”
The Goodwins have video of Zantoria from age 3, and she has developed confidence with her skills. “She told me more than a month ago to make sure to take (Sept. 6) off (for the regional),” Curtis Goodwin said. “It’s been a fun journey. I don’t know where it will end, but it’s been exciting.”
Adam Hunt, a 9-year-old fourth-grader at Satchel Ford Elementary, won his age-group in local qualifying, then advanced to the regional by placing second at Fort Jackson. He got started in golf playing with his dad, Patrick, and those two are joined on the course by granddad Charles Burgin.
“My driving,” he said, in looking ahead to what needs improvement for the regional. And if he’s not on the course, he’s working on his chipping and putting, mom Lucy said.
Like the others, Adam started golf early. “After he got a club in his hand, the rest is history,” Lucy Hunt said. “In addition to our family calendar, we have a golf calendar.”
The golf calendar shows he spent last weekend competing in the lower state junior all-star matches at Seabrook Island, and he finished second in his age group. In addition to other SCJGA events, he has competed in U.S. Junior Kids Golf and played in the World tournament at Pinehurst the past two years.
He plays soccer, too, but this week his sights are set on golf, and he said, “I’m excited about this week, and playing at Augusta would be great.”
A 13-year-old eighth-grader at Blythewood Middle School, Parker Stavley “picked up a club one day about seven years ago and she had a good swing from the start,” Ryan Stavley, her dad, said.
The Drive, Chip and Putt program started on a smaller scale last year, and Parker was one of the players chosen. She won local qualifying in Savannah, then finished fourth in the regional in Atlanta with a barely out-of-bounds drive halting her advance.
“We have found the competition much tougher this year,” Ryan Stavley said. “They had a raffle for places the first year, and some of the better players did not get picked. The local and sub-regional have been more challenging this year, and we’re pleased that she has gotten through it.”
She advanced by finishing second in both the local and sub-regional, losing the top sub-regional spot in a tie-breaker. She has played in the U.S. Kids World tournament multiple times, has career best rounds of 70 at Crickentree and Windermere and has posted two holes-in-one.
She is playing in a National Junior Golf Tour event in Myrtle Beach this weekend.
“I look forward to both (tournaments and Drive, Chip and Putt), and I’m really excited about regional,” Parker said. “The competition will be tougher, but I’m excited.”
“It’s cool for us (Ryan and mom Nicole) to see her play and improve,” her dad said. “I don’t play much; my job is to instruct and caddie.”