Kids put on show in Drive, Chip and Putt finals at Augusta

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AUGUSTA, Ga. (AP)Ali Mulhall and Yana Wilson are best friends from Henderson, Nevada. The teenage girls have a lot in common, namely that they’re better at golf than most people.

And they’ve got trophies to prove it.

They were two of the eight champions at the Drive, Chip & Putt National Finals at Augusta National on Sunday, a day when 80 kids got to take six swings – two in each category – and finish on the same 18th green that will see a Masters champion crowned next weekend.

Mulhall won the girls 14-15 age division, Wilson the 12-13 division. Wilson was midway through her competition when she pulled out a rangefinder and focused on the giant scoreboard that overlooks the 18th green at Augusta.

She gasped when she saw that Mulhall had won.

”I couldn’t let her win alone,” Wilson said.

So, she nestled both her 15- and 30-foot putt opportunities close enough to finish off her second consecutive national finals victory. She also won at Augusta in 2019; last year’s competition was called off because of the coronavirus pandemic.

”Honestly, I had no expectations going into this,” Wilson said. ”But to repeat is just amazing.”

Drive, Chip & Putt completed a precursor to Masters week where kids and young women’s amateur players got to compete on the course that most other golfers can only dream about getting to play. Japanese teenager Tsubasa Kajitani beat Emilia Migliaccio with a par on the 18th hole in a playoff to win the women’s amateur on Saturday, breaking down in tears after the victory.

Wilson has one more year of Drive, Chip & Putt left. Then, she hopes, she’s in the women’s amateur at Augusta – and that Mulhall is right beside her when it happens.

”We both will playing hopefully in the last group one day,” Wilson said. ”I think it’ll be the best time of our life.”

Other Drive, Chip & Putt champions crowned Sunday included Elyse Meerdink of Tampa, Florida (girls 10-11), Alexis Card of Cambridge, Ontario (girls 7-9), Lucas Bernstein of Fresno, California (boys 7-9), Brady Barnum of Dublin, Ohio (boys 10-11), Sam Udovich of Inver Grove Heights, Minnesota (boys 12-13) and Jaivir Pande of Houston (boys 14-15).

”We’re excited to see all the smiles on their faces,” Augusta National Chairman Fred Ridley said.

FOR DINNER

The perks of winning the Masters are many: the green jacket, a lifetime exemption into the tournament, honorary membership at Augusta National.

Dustin Johnson also got to write a menu.

The Masters Club Dinner – it’s better known as the Champions dinner and is an annual ritual at the Masters – is Tuesday night, and because Johnson is the reigning champion he got to pick the selections that he and other past winners will enjoy.

His appetizers: pigs in a blanket, along with lobster-and-corn fritters. That’ll be followed by a house or Caesar salad. And then comes the main course: filet mignon and miso-marinated sea bass, served with mashed potatoes and spring vegetables.

Finally, dessert choices: peach cobbler and apple pie, with vanilla ice cream.

A year ago, Tiger Woods went with steak and chicken fajitas, sushi and sashimi as his dinner choices.

TOUR HOLDING PAT

The National Black Justice Coalition wants the PGA Tour and Masters Tournament to pull the event from Augusta National, unaware that the tour has no control over a major run by the club. However, the coalition also urged professional golfers ”to refuse the play in Georgia” until the state repeals its recently passed voting law.

The PGA Tour’s final event in the FedEx Cup is the Tour Championship at East Lake in Atlanta.

In a statement, the tour leaned on its charitable impact to say it’s not going anywhere. It noted the Tour Championship, played at East Lake for 20 of the last 23 years, has generated some $38 million since 1998.

”The Tour Championship’s commitment to East Lake has helped our partners transform distressed neighborhoods into healthy and thriving ones, which is a key to ending the cycle of intergenerational poverty,” the statement said. ”The charitable and economic benefits that have led to these substantial changes would not continue if we simply walked away from those in need.”

The tour said its intention to play tournaments in a particular market ”should not be construed as indifference to the current national conversation around voting rights.”

The KPMG Women’s PGA Championship will be at Atlanta Athletic Club the last week in June. The PGA of America said earlier that its partners, which include KPMG and the LPGA Tour, are committed to diversity, equity and inclusion and that it is monitoring developments related to Georgia’s new voting law.

WEATHER WATCH

Temperatures were in the high 30s Fahrenheit (slightly above freezing Celsius) when the youth players started arriving early Sunday morning. It’ll warm up quickly this week.

Forecasters say highs will reach the 80s (mid-20s) – possibly the upper 80s – by midweek. That’s the good news.

The bad news: There’s no rain in the forecast, until Thursday. The first two rounds could see some thundershowers, forecasters say.

It’s not like that’d be a shock; 45 of the 84 previous Masters have seen some rain.

AP Golf Writer Doug Ferguson contributed to this report.

More AP golf: https://apnews.com/hub/golf and https://twitter.com/AP-Sports

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