Billy Payne Announces Drive, Chip & Putt Event; Hopes To Grow Golf Among Youth
Augusta National Chair Billy Payne yesterday announced the start of the Drive, Chip & Putt Championship, with the event finals to be "held next year" at the club the Sunday before The Masters, according to David Lee of the AUGUSTA CHRONICLE. The free, nationwide junior skills competition "is open to boys and girls ages 7-15, with four age classifications." Augusta National will allow "several thousand ticketed patrons to watch the finals." Part of the event will be held "on the tournament practice range, and the final competition will be a putting event on the 18th green." The championship will "air on the Golf Channel." There will be "qualifying events nationwide, with 88 finalists coming to Augusta." Meanwhile, PGA of America President Ted Bishop said that more than 100 PGA facilities "will play host to qualifying events" (AUGUSTA CHRONICLE, 4/9). Bishop added that he expects "more than 100,000 kids will enter, though there is a limit of 17,600 who can compete." If the entries "exceed 17,600, there will be a lottery system to determine who gets to play." The AP's Doug Ferguson noted if it "sounds like the 'Punt, Pass and Kick,' that's not an accident." Payne said that research "led them to football's popular competition for kids." Payne: "Different sport, different way of qualifying, different everything. But yeah, I think the success which they have been able to achieve inspired me" (AP, 4/8).
GROWING THE GAME: In Atlanta, Chip Towers notes the competition was the "brainchild of a coalition" of the Masters Tournament Foundation, the USGA and the PGA of America in its continued effort to “grow the game” of golf among America’s youth. USGA President Glen Nager said that there has been a 30% "decline in participation in junior golf" (ATLANTA JOURNAL-CONSTITUTION, 4/9).