Three junior golfers from Colorado held their own, received their share of national TV coverage, and most importantly left with memories for a lifetime Sunday in the Drive, Chip and Putt national finals held at Augusta National Golf Club in Georgia on the eve of the Masters.
Though this was the third national finals of the DCP, it was the first year a Coloradan qualified. In all, 80 golfers -- 40 boys and 40 girls from across the U.S. and Canada -- competed on Sunday at Augusta. The event was broken up into four age groups each for boys and girls, age 7-15.
Luke Trujillo, 15, of Colorado Springs finished sixth out of 10 players overall in the boys 14-15 age group with 15.5 points, 7.5 fewer than champion Michael Thorbjornsen of Wellesley, Mass. Trujillo ended up third in putting -- thanks to draining his second putt -- sixth in chipping, and tied for seventh in the drive. The Golf Channel showed one of Trujillo's drives and both of his chips and putts on Sunday, including the one that he holed to close his day.
Arielle Keating, 15, of Colorado Springs finished sixth in the girls 14-15 division with 16.5 points, 10 behind champion Alyssa Montgomery of Knoxville, Tenn. Keating tied for third in the chip (her second chip finished a foot from the cup), and placed fifth in the putt and eighth in the drive. Golf Channel showed her stroke one of her putts on Sunday.
Caitlyn Chin, 8, of suburban Denver finished 10th in the girls 7-9 division with five points, leaving her 19 points back of champion Emerson Blair of West Point, Miss. Chin placed eighth in the drive, and 10th in both the chip and the putt. Golf Channel showed both of Chin's putts on Sunday.
(The Coloradans -- from left, Trujillo, Chin and Keating -- are pictured above.)
After competing in the Drive, Chip and Putt on Sunday, Trujillo, Keating and Chin -- and their families -- will have a chance to watch a Masters practice round Monday at Augusta National.
Among those on hand for Sunday's DCP national finals were Masters champions Bubba Watson, Adam Scott, Nick Faldo, Ben Crenshaw and Mark O'Meara, other PGA Tour players Jason Day, Keegan Bradley and Matt Kuchar, new USGA president Diana Murphy, PGA of America president Derek Sprague, Augusta National chairman Billy Payne, former U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, and U.S. Amateur and NCAA champion Bryson DeChambeau. On Saturday on the eve of the event, the DCP finalists rubbed elbows with entertainers Justin Timberlake and Niall Horan, and PGA Tour player Justin Rose.
"This is special," Watson said Sunday on Golf Channel. "It jerks at my heart a lot, watching this. There are other things these kids are learning (besides displaying their skills). They're learning etiquette, dedication, and the drive (necessary to achieve at a high level)."
Only six states were better represented in the DCP national finals this spring than Colorado -- California (8 finalists), Texas (7), Ohio (5), and New York, Illinois and Michigan (4 each).
The Drive, Chip and Putt Championship is a joint initiative of the Masters, the USGA and the PGA of America designed to help grow the game.
Each competitor is scored based on the longest of two drives (provided it's inbounds), and the cumulative proximity to the hole of two chips and of two putts from different distances. The driving and chipping were held at Augusta National's tournament practice area, with the putting set for ANGC's 18th green. Golfers competed within eight groups based on gender and age, with the kids with the highest combined scores in driving, chipping and putting winning the overall titles.
All 80 of the finalists who vied at Augusta National on Sunday qualified by virtue of advancing through local, sub-regional and regional competitions.
Trujillo, Keating and Chin all took the same sub-regional and regional paths to the finals, advancing at CommonGround Golf Course in Aurora and Torrey Pines Golf Club in La Jolla, Calif., respectively. Each won his or her divisions at the regionals at Torrey Pines.
For all the results of Sunday's Drive, Chip and Putt national finals, CLICK HERE.Registration for the 2016-17 Drive, Chip and Putt Championship is open. The website can be accessed by CLICKING HERE.