Every golfer dreams of playing at Augusta National in April, and 146 youngsters get an opportunity to take a step in that direction next Saturday at Fort Jackson Golf Club.
They will participate in the sub-regional competition in the annual Drive, Chip and Putt program, and 16 players – two in each of eight divisions – will be a step closer to the 2018 national finals, set for the first Sunday of Masters week.
“We’re honored to have the young people compete at our club,” Mike Casto, FJGC’s general manager and director of golf, said. “This will be the fourth year we’ve had the Drive, Chip and Putt sub-regional, and we want to again make it a special day for the players and their parents.”
The Drive, Chip and Putt program is an initiative designed to grow the game, sponsored jointly by the Masters Tournament Foundation, the PGA of America and the United States Golf Association. Competition comes in four age groups – 7-9, 10-11, 12-13 and 14-15 – for both boys and girls with points accumulated based on length of drives and distances to the hole on chips and putts.
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Saturday’s competition begins at 10 a.m.
Players who have advanced to the sub-regional – the equivalent of the quarterfinals in a tournament – placed in the top three in their age group in local qualifying. Clubs in the state that staged local qualifying included Par Tee Golf Center in West Columbia, Willow Creek in Greer, Wescott Plantation in Summerville and the Legends Resort in Myrtle Beach. In addition, players from local qualifying at some North Carolina sites will be at Fort Jackson.
“We’re prepared for a great day,” said Casto, whose staff and volunteers will work with the Carolinas PGA of America Section to coordinate the event. “We will have our American flags outlining the grid on the driving range, and players will see their scores posted on a big-screen television after they turn in their cards.
Some familiar names from the area’s junior ranks who will be competing include Spencer Benton, Matthew Hutto, Ella Stalvey, Adam Hunt and Burch Harrison. Stalvey moved on to the regional a year ago.
The top two in each age group advance to the regionals, which will be held at Pinehurst Resort in North Carolina on Sept. 3. One player in each age group will move from Pinehurst to Augusta.
“One of our qualifiers, Parker Stalvey, won her regional in 2015 and played at Augusta,” Casto said. “Maybe we will have that happen again. We know this from the past three years: the competition will be challenging. Players have to be good to reach this level.”
With the Web.com Tour’s season winding down, Kyle Thompson (USC) and Matt Atkins (USC Aiken) will earn promotion to the 2017-18 PGA Tour with high finishes in Web.com earnings. Roberto Diaz (USC Aiken) started the tournament that ends today at No. 25, the final position to secure status on the top tour. Billy Kennerly (Clemson), who did not qualify for a Web.com tourney until June, has vaulted to 40th in earnings with three top-10 performances in eight starts and could climb into the top 25 with a big finish this week in Knoxville or next week in the regular-season finale in North Plains, Ore. … On the MacKenzie Tour Canada, Sean Kelly (USC) at 20th in earnings, and Will Starke (USC) at 24th are the top state performers. Starke jumped up the standings with recent back-to-back top-10s. … On the Symetra Tour, which leads to the LPGA Tour, former USC player Nanna Madsen has already been promoted to the top circuit with three Symetra victories, and Katelyn Dambaugh, who finished her USC career this spring, is 29th in Symetra earnings. Madsen will play in three LPGA events before returning for two Symetra tournaments to end her season. … Lea Venable (Simpsonville) made and up-and-down par on the first playoff hole to secure a spot in the U.S. Women’s Mid-Amateur in qualifying at the CC of Lexington. … Golden Hills G&CC (Lexington) will celebrate the eclipse with a two-player, best ball tourney on Monday. Plans also include a hole-in-one contest and the opportunity to watch the eclipse from the course’s 10th hole. Call the pro shop (803-957-3355) to register or for more information.