HJGT Golfers Emerge Victorious At 2024 Drive, Chip and Putt Finals

Every golfer knows the exhilaration of a well-executed drive, the precision of a chip shot, and the satisfaction of sinking a crucial putt. For young golf enthusiasts, mastering these skills is both a challenge and a passion. Enter the Drive, Chip and Putt National Finals, an event that celebrates the dedication and talent of junior golfers from across the globe.

Drive, Chip and Putt isn’t just any golf event—it’s a comprehensive youth development program. Open to both boys and girls, the competition is divided into four age divisions, ensuring fair play and exciting matchups. Participants showcase their skills in driving, chipping, and putting, with accuracy and precision being the name of the game.

The Stage is Set: Augusta National Golf Club

This year’s 10th annual Drive, Chip and Putt National Finals took place on April 7, 2024, at the prestigious Augusta National Golf Club, just before the commencement of the 88th Masters Tournament. It was a gathering of 80 exceptional junior golfers, hailing from 31 U.S. states, one Canadian province, and even as far as Australia.

These young athletes, aged 7-15, earned their coveted invitations through a rigorous series of qualifiers. Among the 80 finalists were seven returning competitors, including standout performers like three-time National Finalist Champa Visetsin and 2022 National Champion Hudson Knapp. These seasoned contenders added an extra layer of excitement to an already thrilling event.

The Road to Augusta: From Local to Regional

The journey to Augusta began with local qualifiers held at various sites nationwide. From there, the top scorers advanced to subregional qualifiers, then to regional levels, with each stage narrowing down the field to the best of the best. Regional qualifying took place at renowned courses, adding to the prestige of the event.

While the Drive, Chip and Putt National Finals showcased the talents of 80 remarkable junior golfers, another platform was buzzing with energy—the Hurricane Junior Golf Tour (HJGT). There were 30 participants who had HJGT experience that took on the competition, with 11 finishing in the top-3 of their divisions.

HJGT Players

The 16 girl finalists with HJGT experience were Victoria Kim and Adelyn Owen from the Girls 7-9 Division, Aarya Tsarong, Ani Cooper, and Lily Wachter from the Girls 10-11 Division, Hayden Knapp, Karis Reid, Dixie Crain, Gayatri Arora and Naryn Kim from the Girls 12-13 Division, Nikitha Suresh, Kayley Roberts, Ariel Collins, Abigail Lin, Riley Grimm, and McKenna Nelson from the Girls 14-15 Division.

HJGT GIRLS DRIVE CHIP PUTT

The 14 boy players with HJGT experience were Preston Tolnar and Isaac Lee from the Boys 7-9 Division, Flynn Lewis, Trebor Melendez, Hudson Knapp, Ryan Kim and Texas Terry from the Boys 10-11 Division, Cole Layow, Colton Dee, Arno Wehle and Jackson Fogelson from the Boys 12-13 Division, and Brycen Tisch, Colby Komancheck, and Caden Fehr from the boys 14-15 Division.

HJGT BOYS DRIVE CHIP PUTT

Of those 30 HJGT golfers, Lily Wachter, Karis Reid, McKenna Nelson, and Texas Terry came out on top as first place finishers!

Conversation With The Drive, Chip and Putt Winners

We were able to catch up with a few of the golfers after their big wins at Augusta.

Karis Reid

“Playing at Augusta National is the highlight of my junior golf experience up to this point,” Girls 12-13 Winner Karis Reid said. “From the perfect conditions of the course to the extremely supportive gallery, the entire experience was unforgettable.” Reid added that “some of my best golf memories are the practice rounds that I have played with golf friends before competing in tournaments.”

Reid is a 13-year-old out of Carmel, Indiana, who started playing golf at the age of six and competing at the age of 7. Her dad has been a longtime high school golf coach, so it’s easy to see where the inspiration comes from. Like many others on tour, Reid has aspirations of playing on the LPGA Tour; however, she has plans beyond the course too.

“I would also love to study physical therapy or sports medicine in college,” Reid said. “I love the game of golf, but I also want to help future athletes be the best they can be at their sport.”

McKenna Nelson

The Girls 14-15 winner was 15-year-old McKenna Nelson out of Beaver Dam, Wisconsin. This courageous young lady shared a story about her perseverance with us after her big win at Augusta.

“I underwent a heart condition last August all the way until early February.” Nelson said. “I was diagnosed with SVT (Supra-ventricular Tachycardia) when I was hitting on the range and all of the sudden my heart took off. It was beating at 230 beats per minute, which was not good at all. I kept on having episodes, which came to me with a lot of anxiety. I really lost my love to practice and even to be out on a golf course. I decided I didn’t want to live with fear constantly in my head, so I got the correction procedure in February. I am now free from all anxiety and love to be out on a golf course again.”

What an incredible journey McKenna has been on, but she was able to overcome her tremendous adversity to live out one of her all-time dreams.

“It means a lot,” Nelson said of her experience at Augusta. “I started Drive, Chip, and Putt when I was 6 years old and getting to go to Augusta was always the dream to me and winning is just a bonus.” Yet despite all the lore of Augusta National, McKenna shared this memory as her all-time favorite moment playing junior golf.

“One of my favorite memories playing golf is qualifying for my first USGA event with my friend,” Nelson said. “Playing in a USGA championship is unmatched and doing it with one of your best friends was really cool. I made so many memories that week but also learned a lot about my game and where I needed to improve.”

Texas Terry

Last but certainly not least, the Boys 10-11 Winner Texas Terry is from Lexington, Texas, and has hopes of playing for the University of Texas one day. That’s not all, either. The appropriately-named junior phenom hopes to play with Scottie Scheffler on the PGA Tour and win a career grand slam.

Those are some lofty aspirations, but Terry certainly knows the meaning of hard work. After all, that is how he made his way to Augusta in the first place.

“I have always wanted to attend The Masters,” Terry said about his journey in Drive, Chip and Putt. “My Dad said that in order for me to go to The Masters, I would need to earn it. For the past three years, I made it to the Regional stage of Drive, Chip & Putt, and this was my first year to win Regionals. It was such an honor to be one of the ten boys in the 10-11 age category who qualified for Drive, Chip & Putt National Finals at Augusta National. I already felt like a winner by playing at Augusta National. The National Finals is extremely challenging because all of the finalists are outstanding golfers. I worked really hard to perform my best, and winning the National Championship was icing on the cake!”

No doubt playing at Augusta National was an incredible experience, but Texas’ answer for his most memorable junior golf moment sounds like a dream.

“One of my favorite golf memories was playing in the U.S. Kids Golf Big 5 South African Open tournament in 2023,” Terry said about his favorite golf memory. “It was an amazing experience! On the golf course, there were monkeys, peacocks, many different kinds of African deer, and many other kinds of animals. On one hole, there were wildebeests in the fairway that ran past me when I was walking to my ball. It was like being on the Discovery Channel during three rounds of golf! And, after the tournament, my family and I went on a safari at Kapama, and it was an experience that I will never forget!”

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