PONTE VEDRA BEACH, Fla. – More than 200 future Players champions teed it up, chipped it on, and putted it in for a chance to go to Augusta National in the Drive, Chip, and Putt Championships.
TPC Sawgrass hosted the first of 290 local qualifiers across the United States which saw 220 boys and girls ages 7 to 15 compete to move on to the regional qualifier later this year. Bob Baldassari is a PGA member and part of the Drive, Chip, and Putt task force and says you could not ask for a better venue to host this event.
"We are more than excited to be here at TPC Sawgrass," said Baldassari. "It is a spectacular setting, the kids are overjoyed to be here and I think the parents are even a little more excited. These kids are walking in the steps of great golfers, historic champions who have played and won here, so this is very real treat. We got spectacular weather and we couldn't be more excited to be here."
Part of the allure of the annual Drive, Chip, and Putt Championships is the inclusively. Boys and girls of all ages and abilities are allowed to sign up and compete. It is meant to grow the game, not just for the kids, but the parents as well.
"It is really a family love affair with golf," says Baldassari. "You see the families come out here, it is not just a parent with one child. You got the little brothers and sisters out here, you got the older ones out too. They get inspired by it, this is moving the game of golf, getting new kids in and really the parents too. We get parents who come out and have never been on a golf course in their lives. They see their kid play and they go, 'this looks like something I want to do.'"
9-year old Anastasia Dimov participated in her first Drive, Chip, and Putt Saturday morning. She says when she grows up, she wants to be a professional golfer and this gives her a lot of opportunities to get started.
"My favorite part about golf is having fun in it because everybody cheers for you and it is just fun," said Dimov.
Having fun on the course means something very specific for 8-year old Grayson Gardell.
"I have fun golfing when I hit it very far. I make friends when I hit it far and that is my favorite part is when I hit it far."
For more information on the Drive, Putt and Chip Championships go to drivechipandputt.com.