Wait worth it for the kids at Drive, Chip & Putt finals

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Kyle Dawson, Aiken Standard, S.C.
·2 min read
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Apr. 4—AUGUSTA — Brady Barnum needed every point he could get Sunday at the Drive, Chip and Putt National Finals at Augusta National Golf Club.

Barnum was tied with Henry Guan at 18 points apiece after the Drive and Chip portions of the competition, meaning it was all going to come down to their putts on the 18th green.

Luckily for Barnum, he had recently received some pretty good advice.

"I got the privilege to play with Kevin Kisner," he said. "He gave me a lot of great tips on putting."

Barnum won the Putt portion of the competition and edged Guan by a point to win the boys' 10-11 age division.

Eight champions were crowned Sunday after an 18-month wait — like the Augusta National Women's Amateur, the Drive, Chip & Putt National Finals were not held last year due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Jaivir Pande and Ali Mulhall were the winners in the 14-15 divisions, Sam Udovich and Yana Wilson were the 12-13 champions, Barnum and Elyse Meerdink won at 10-11, and Lucas Bernstein and Alexis Card won the 7-9.

For Kasey Maralack, the runner-up in the girls' 14-15 division, the wait since qualifying nearly two years ago made her unsure if she'd get a chance to compete. The anticipation steadily built over the last couple of weeks, though, and her excitement came rushing back.

"I think at some point it did (seem like it wouldn't happen), but as soon as some things started opening up, even with schools opening halfway, I kind of realized this was going to happen," she said. "I just got super excited about it."

The wait wasn't easy, but it was worth it for the 80 participants Sunday. They'll be out on the course Monday to take in a Masters practice round, and several of the players spoke about the inspiration they got from the ANWA — especially since the winner, 17-year-old Tsubasa Kajitani, isn't much older than they are.

"I think it made it more special. It made me more excited to come and it's almost like we had a whole year to get better and work on all of our games so that was really cool," said Macy Pate, who finished fifth in the girls' 14-15 division. "I'm thankful it happened the way it did. It's unfortunate, but it's kind of fun how it happened and now we all have this special memory about Augusta."

The kids will be watching closely as the world's best golfers play in the Masters, and they've got their favorites they'll follow around Monday and root for in the tournament.

"Definitely Kisner," Barnum said.