AUGUSTA, Ga. – Hollywood endings evidently run in the Cheng
Andy Cheng is an assistant movie director whose works
include “Twilight,” “The Rundown” and “Rush Hour,” and he occasionally doubles
as actor Jackie Chan’s stuntman.
His 11-year-old son, Leo, produced his own theatrics at
Augusta National Golf Club on Sunday in the inaugural Drive, Chip and Putt
Leo Cheng, of Northridge, Calif., claimed the Boys 10-11
Division by converting a 15-foot putt from the same spot where Adam Scott made a
birdie en route to his playoff win over Angel Cabrera in the 2013 Masters. To
top it off, Cheng received his trophy at the prize presentation from Scott.
Could the script have been any better?
Photos: DCP National Finals
2015 DCP Registration
“I felt like Adam Scott when I putted that,” said Chen, who
offered a fist pump when the ball dropped, much to the delight of the gallery
surrounding the green.
And what did the Australian say to Cheng before signing his
cap and posing for a photo?
“He said: ‘Good job. You should be proud of yourself for
Cheng was one of eight overall winners in this inaugural
competition, which was conducted by Augusta National, The PGA of America and
the USGA. More than 15,000 youths registered to compete in local and regional
competitions last summer, with the final 88 – 11 in each age division – invited
to Augusta National for the finals.
The competition featured each competitor hitting two drives
– the better of the two counting – that needed to land within a 30-yard wide
grid, then a pair of chips and three putts, with the cumulative distance from
the hole used in the scoring. A golfer could receive a maximum of 33 points –
11 in each skill – and the golfer with the most points was determined the
overall winner. The divisions were broken down into four age categories: 7-9,
10-11, 12-13 and 14-15.
“It was the best day of my life,” said Kelly Xu, 9, of Santa
Monica, Calif., the champion in the Girls 7-9 Division.
All of the competitors were in awe of the surroundings,
especially when they saw the number of patrons and media members.
“I felt like my heart stopped for a second,” said Cheng of
his nerves prior to his first drive. “After that first [drive], I was in first
for a few minutes, and that’s what got me pumped up.”
Cheng, who posted 30 points to edge Bradford Chandler, of
Fairfax, Va., by three, was even more excited when his parents presented him
with a green jacket they had purchased in China last summer after Leo had
qualified for the finals. Each Masters champion receives a green jacket. Cheng
knew about the jacket, but he wasn’t prepared to meet Scott.
“I wouldn’t expect him to come here and give me his
autograph and take pictures with me,” said Cheng, who will have quite a tale
for his fifth-grade classmates at Balboa Gifted/High Ability Magnet Elementary
School. “I thought he would be out there playing with Vijay Singh or someone
The youngest age division kicked off the competition and Xu
made history by becoming the first female champion in the history of Augusta.
“It felt really
exciting that all my hard work has really paid off,” said Xu in a post-event
Xu posted 10 points apiece in the drive and chip portions,
and despite struggling with her putting (4.5 points), managed to hold off Raina
Ports, of Tucson, Ariz., by 1.5 points (24.5-23).
“I was extremely nerve-wracked [at the outset], but when I
went to hit the ball, I felt like I’ve been doing this for a long time and am
used to it, so then I wasn’t nervous anymore,” said Xu, a fourth-grader at
Roosevelt Elementary School who plays at the nine-hole Penmar-By-The-Sea Golf Course
in Venice, Calif.
A look at the other divisions and winners:
Treed Huang, 9, of Katy, Texas, was shivering on the driving
range prior to the competition, but it didn’t take long for him to shed the
nerves. Huang won the opening skill with a 173-yard drive en route to posting
27 points, two better than Logan Medcalf, of Lynden, Wash.
Huang first took up the game six years ago when his father,
Yufu, a software engineer who moved from China 16 years ago, bought plastic
clubs and allowed Treed to hit plastic balls in the house. A year later, he was
getting formal instruction. And five years after that, he earned his way to
“It was much better than I expected,” said the soft-spoken
Huang saw on the scoreboard that he needed to get his final
putt within 4 feet of the hole to secure the title. He lagged to 2 feet.
“I was confident,” said Huang.
Lucy Li, 11, of Redwood City, Calif., is no stranger to the
national spotlight, having qualified for a pair of USGA championships last
summer. Li surpassed Michelle Wie as the youngest match-play qualifier at the
U.S. Women’s Amateur Public Links at age 10, and two months later she was the
youngest qualifier in U.S. Women’s Amateur history, where she carded a
1-under-par 70 in the second round of stroke play.
Li certainly wasn’t overwhelmed by the television cameras or
the gallery, winning the drive and chip portions en route to a one-point
victory over Jacqueline Nguyen, of Houston, Texas.
“Maybe [there was extra pressure], but not for myself because
I just enjoy playing,” said Li, who admitted to being more nervous for this
competition than the U.S. Women’s Amateur. “It means a lot for me to be [at
Augusta National] where all the great players from the game have been.”
In order to keep his daughter coming back to the golf
course, Dean Pietromonaco would give Starbursts to Natalie. At age 4, she
needed something to pique her interest. Now 13 and an eighth-grader at
Newcastle Elementary School in Auburn, Calif., Pietromonaco has seen her game
progress without such incentives.
“I can’t eat them anymore,” said Pietromonaco, who, despite
a slow start in the drive competition, rallied for a one-point victory over
Christine Wang, of Houston, Texas, (24-23). “[Chipping and putting] definitely
is the stronger part of my game. I work a lot more on my short game than my
long game. I think it helps a lot.”
Pietromonaco traveled 14 hours by car to Washington state
for her regional final and she made the trek pay off at Augusta National.
Bryson Bianco, of Tallahassee, Fla., says driving is one of
his strengths and the 13-year-old used a 261-yarder to win that skill. He then
held off Jack McMullin, of Seattle, Wash., for a one-point win, 25-24.
“All the practice paid off,” said Bianco, an eighth-grader
at the Maclay School, who plays out of Golden Eagle Golf & Country Club.
“It’s been a little cold there [in Florida] this winter, but we’ve been still
practicing. Usually, it’s four days a week.”
Winning the drive competition put Bianco a bit at ease heading
into the final two skills.
“I was a little nervous toward the beginning about coming
here,” he said, “but you’ve just got to stay comfortable. My legs were
definitely shaking for that first tee shot. It got easier after the first one.”
Jack Pate couldn’t help but let out a loud exclamation when his
14-year-old daughter, Hunter, won the 14-15 Division with 27 points, 1.5 more
than Johanna Alberto, of Kingwood, Texas.
Hunter, who lives in Las Vegas, Nev., couldn’t believe it
herself when Augusta National member Condoleezza Rice announced the winner.
“They had the
standings, but I wasn’t sure exactly how much I was down by,” said Pate after
receiving her trophy. “I was too nervous [to look].”
Pate said qualifying for the 2012 U.S. Women’s Amateur
Public Links definitely helped in preparing her for this big stage. Pate missed
the match-play cut, but the experience fueled her desire to improve.
“Feeling all the emotions there and then coming here, it was
really similar,” said Pate, an eighth-grader at Grant Sawyer Middle School.
Pate finished second in both the drive and putt categories
en route to the title.
“I really just wanted to get [my drive] in the fairway no
matter what,” she said. “I thought I was going to miss both of them and when I
got the first one in it was like a weight had been lifted.”
The roar that went up behind the 18th green rivaled those
when Tiger Woods or Phil Mickelson won the Masters. But the cheer wasn’t for
one of golf’s two most recognizable players.
Patrick Welch, 14, of Providence, R.I., had just holed a
putt to seal a 28-25 victory over Juan Contreras, of Phoenix, Ariz. Welch, who
was the youngest competitor at the 2013 U.S. Junior Amateur Championship at
Martis Camp Club in Truckee, Calif., was awed by the experience.
“It was surreal,” said Welch, an eighth-grader at Nathan
Bishop Middle School. “It was amazing. I tried to take it in as much as I
possibly could. I was surprised by how loud it was.”
Big accomplishments are nothing new for Welch, who won the
2013 Rhode Island State Junior Amateur just four days after qualifying for DCP.
Last summer, he also became the youngest competitor in the Rhode Island
Despite the harsh, prolonged winter in the Northeast, Welch
said he managed to get in some practice time.
“I just had to pick good days to practice,” he said.
David Shefter is a
senior staff writer at the USGA. Email him at email@example.com.