Drive, Chip & Putt winners crowned at Augusta ahead of Masters

AUGUSTA, Ga. -- With several past Masters winners to help hand out the prizes, eight junior golfers -- four boys, four girls -- were winners of the fifth annual Drive, Chip & Putt National Finals on Sunday at Augusta National.

The youth development program that began in 2014 and kicks off the Masters tournament week, attracted thousands of entrants around the country who qualified in four age categories from 7 to 15.

"All of us at Augusta National are focused on the future of golf, and this event remains one of the most meaningful endeavors in the history of our club," said Masters chairman Fred Ridley. "Our goal here is to inspire a lifelong passion for the game of golf, and if our participation helps, then we've accomplished our mission. I would like to say how inspired we all are by each and every one of these kids, and I'm pretty confident that the game of golf has a great future."

Defending champion Sergio Garcia was joined by other Masters champions, including Nick Faldo, Mark O'Meara, Trevor Immelman, Bubba Watson, Ben Crenshaw and Adam Scott in handing out trophies to the winners.

The four female champions were: Ella June Hannant of Pikeville, North Carolina (ages 7-9); Vanessa Borovilos of Toronto, Ontario (ages 10-11); Sara Im of Duluth, Georgia (ages 12-13); and Katherine Schuster of Kill Devil Hills, North Carolina (ages 14-15).

The four male champions were: Taighan Chea of Bothell, Washington (ages 7-9); Tip Price of Greenville, South Carolina (ages 10-11); PJ Maybank III of Cheboygan, Michigan (ages 12-13); and Brendan Valdes of Orlando, Florida (ages 14-15).

The DCP began with 268 qualifiers at courses across all 50 states last summer. From there, the top finishers advanced through 53 subregionals to one of 10 regional qualifiers. From there, 80 winners across the four age divisions earned a trip to Augusta National.

"Arnold Palmer said it best: We're the custodians of the game,'' Faldo said. "We have to pass along the honor of the game, the integrity of the game. These young kids are here to learn it, and I hope some outside of the ropes appreciate how cool our game is.''

Augusta National, along with the PGA of America and the United States Golf Association, stage the tournament and its various qualifiers.

Points were awarded in each individual skill category (drive, chip and putt), with the winner receiving 10 points, second 9 points, third 8 points, etc. The player with the most points following all three competitions was declared the overall winner of the age group.