Golf Monthly's Robin Barwick reports on the inaugural Drive, Chip and Putt Championship ahead of the start of the 2014 Masters at Augusta National

Words: Robin Barwick

“Brunswick stew, cornmeal, cornbread, sweetcorn, sweet tea and hot peach cobbler” was the detailed and nutritionally balanced Champions’ Dinner menu from nine-year-old Kelly Xu from California, should she ever win the Masters. Kelly has in fact won at Augusta National, at Sunday’s Drive, Chip & Putt Championship National Final, where she won the Girls’ 7-9 age group.

The Sunday before Masters week starts is traditionally a day of serenity, the final day of calm before the gates of Augusta National are opened to the public on the Monday morning.

But this year it was different, and far from calm. In fact it was a day of real energy and excitement, filled with the joy and promise of youth, as Augusta National staged the final of its inaugural, nationwide tournament for golfers aged between seven and 15.

Four boys and four girls were crowned champions in their respective age groups, having accumulated the most points in tests of driving, chipping and putting, and to add to the tournament flavor of the event, in player biographies, each finalist was asked to state what they would serve in the Champions’ Dinner, if they were Masters champion.

Eight-year-old Makaylee Cowan from Oklahoma kept it short and to the point: “Cheese dip,” she simply said.

How about seven-year-old Andrew Petruzzelli from Dallas, who stipulated: “King salmon with lime juice, broccoli, salad and French bread, with chocolate chip cookies and sea salt gelato for dessert”. Some parental input with that one, you can bet.

How do you think these selections compare to the following: “Caesar salad, followed by grilled chicken breast with green beans, mashed potatoes, corn, macaroni and cheese, served with cornbread, and for dessert; confetti cake with vanilla ice cream”? Slightly child-like? This is in fact not the choice of a young golfing prodigy, but what Bubba Watson served to the Masters champions last year.

In the region of 17,000 young golfers entered the inaugural Drive, Chip and Putt Championship, which began with a series of local qualifiers around the United States last summer. The top finishers then qualified for 11 regional qualifiers, with the country’s top 88 young players across four age groups earning the chance to compete in a skills test at Augusta National on Sunday, and to meet some of this year’s Masters golfers while they were here.

One of the tests put to the young golfers was to attempt the same 15-foot putt Adam Scott holed on 18 in the final round of the 2013 Masters, on his way to victory. Florida’s Bryson Bianco, by the way, aged 13, won the Boys 12-13 age group with a performance highlighted by a drive of 261 yards.

After the success of the 2014 event, the Drive, Chip & Putt Championship is being extended for 2015, and will allow entry to 50,000 young golfers across 250 local qualifying events this summer. The championship is the result of collaboration between Augusta National, the PGA of America and the USGA.

Robin Barwick travelled to Augusta National courtesy of Mercedes-Benz, Global Sponsor of the 2014 Masters Tournament.