The clubhouse at Stryker Golf Course buzzed with activity during the Drive, Chip and Putt Championship, Sunday. The event drew over 100 local youth aged 7 to 15, who participated in three different events that tested their basic golf skills.
In the drive portion of the competition, participants had three attempts to hit the ball as far as they could from the tee. They also had three attempts to chip a golf ball onto the scoring hole, and then had to putt the ball from 6 feet, 15 feet and 30 feet away from the hole.
Each golfer received points based on the final location of the ball in each portion of the competition. The top three overall finishers in each age group will move onto the sub-regional qualifying round, held in Greensboro, North Carolina.
This is the first year Fort Bragg has hosted a local qualifier, and Families said they appreciated the convenience.
“It was nice not having to drive,” said Cara Scholle, Family member. “We participate because it’s easy; you don’t have to play a whole game.”
Scholle said the event was beneficial for younger children to show them the game could be fun and get them hooked.
Introducing the game to this new generation is actually the goal of the Drive, Chip and Putt Championship, according to Chris Gaines, manager, player development and operations, PGA REACH Carolinas Foundation.
Augusta National members, the Professional Golfers’ Association of America and the United States Golf Association established the championship in 2013, and work together to run qualifying events all over the country. Augusta National hosts the Drive, Chip and Putt Championship finals the week of the Masters Tournament in April each year.
Expanding the local qualifying events to more remote locations helps ensure the championship has a broader reach, said Gaines.
“We are spreading it out and making it more accessible to try to fulfill the idea behind it, which was to grow the game and make it more welcoming,” he explained.
One way the organization is able to achieve this goal is by keeping the event free. Participants can even use golf clubs free of charge. This helps make it more Family and fun-oriented as well, Gaines said.
“It’s about exposing a game that’s safe, that doesn’t cause head injuries, that doesn’t tear your knees up, and you play for a lifetime. It will benefit them. I think getting more of our youth involved in golf will teach them the values that golf itself instills — honesty, integrity, respect for your fellow competitors. All that stuff is going to lend itself to helping America become better.”