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For 24 area junior golfers, today’s local Drive, Chip & Putt Championship qualifying event at The Downs Golf Practice Facility represented the first step toward their dream of competing at Augusta National Golf Club.
But each of the 144 youngsters who took part in the first stage of the nationwide event contributed to a day of lasting memories for themselves, their parents and friends, Downs Golf Practice Facility staff and officials from the North Florida Section of the PGA, who conducted the competition.
“The event was even bigger and better than last year,” said Downs Golf Practice Facility Manager Jon Johnson. “We were fortunate the rain stayed away today, and the putting green and chipping and driving areas were fine despite all the rain we got Friday.
“Running the event was a team effort, and it was just a really good day all around. The kids did a great job, and we wish everyone who advanced the best of luck at the subregional (Aug. 16 at Reunion Resort in Orlando),” Johnson said.
The top three finishers among boys and girls in each of the four age groups qualified for the subregional. The winners at Reunion Resort move on to the regional final on Sept. 15 at TPC Sugarloaf in Duluth, Ga.
Their ultimate destination: Augusta National, site of the Masters, next April 5, the Sunday before the start of the 2015 Masters.
Tia Walker of Clearwater, who reached the national finals last year after winning the Girls 10-11 age group at The Downs Golf Practice Facility, qualified for the subregional today by finishing third in the Girls 12-13 Division. Her brother Adam also advanced, finishing second in the Boys 10-11 Division.
This is the second year for the Drive, Chip & Putt Championship, a nationwide competition created by the Masters Tournament Foundation, the U.S. Golf Association and the PGA of America to increase participation among youngsters.
The Downs Golf Practice Facility was chosen as one of 256 local qualifying sites across the country.
Here are today’s qualifiers in each age division with their total points:
Boys 7-9: Clipper Salmon, 127; Jack Vanderschuur, 108; Adrian Rodriguez, 93. Boys 10-11: Armand Loscalzo, 121; Adam Walker, 97; Everest Carmain, 96. Boys 12-13: Nicholas Gabrelcik, 140; Michael Karatzas, 131; Raymond Kern, 99. Boys 14-15: Jordan Sarhaddi, 159; Grayson Maddox, 146; Nicholas Bessire, 143.
Girls 7-9: Kate Fagan, 93; Tiffany Colin, 82; Alyssa Mixon, 65. Girls 10-11: Norah Catlin, 114; Morgan Beaulieu, 96; Gabriela Shortridge, 90. Girls 12-13: Madison Hewlett, 132; Jordyn Hodgson, 116; Tia Walker, 89. Girls 14-15: Madison Heideman, 139; Bianca Sol Cruz, 101; Claire Vermette, 87.

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