The Downs Golf Practice Facility at Tampa Bay Downs has been selected as one of 110 local qualifying sites for the inaugural Drive, Chip & Putt Championship, a free, nationwide junior skills competition designed to increase participation in golf at a grassroots level.
A total of 88 youngsters – 44 boys and 44 girls – will make it to the national finals, which will be contested at Augusta National Golf Club in Georgia next April 6, the Sunday before the 2014 Masters.
Jon Johnson, the Manager of The Downs Golf Practice Facility and a PGA Class A professional, said the local qualifying event will be held Saturday, July 6 during a time period still to be announced. Applications must be submitted on the Internet by a parent or guardian of the youngster wishing to participate.
The Drive, Chip and Putt Championship event is a joint creation of the Masters Tournament Foundation, the U.S. Golf Association and the PGA of America. Competition will be held for boys and girls in four age divisions: 7-9, 10-11, 12-13 and 14-15.
Players will accumulate points in each of the three categories. For a drive to score points, the player must land the ball within a 30-yard wide fairway. Players will attempt three chip shots from 10-15 yards and putts from three distances: 6 feet, 15 feet and 30 feet.
The top two overall point earners in local qualifying in each of the boys and girls divisions from the four age brackets will advance to regional qualifying, with the Florida regional in Orlando. The Championship finals at Augusta National will be produced and broadcast by Golf Channel.
“We are delighted to be part of this initiative to promote interest in the game of golf,” said Johnson, the past President of the West Central Chapter of the North Florida PGA and a former assistant professional at Augusta National.
“The possibility of getting to the finals and having a chance to drive and chip on Augusta National’s practice facility and putt on the 18th green is a huge incentive for any youngster excited about golf,” Johnson added.
Local qualifying events will take place at courses in 19 states and Washington, D.C., from June 1-July 15. Regional qualifying will be conducted at courses in 10 states (with two events in Texas) from Aug. 1-31.
Each of the finalists will attend next April’s event with a guardian free of charge. Augusta National will hold a special ticket lottery for outside spectators wishing to attend the Drive, Chip and Putt finals. Information is available on the website.