Teenager Morgan Goldstein likes the idea that she has accomplished something few other females have done at Augusta National Golf Club.
Back in April, the teen won the Drive, Chip and Putt National Finals in the Girls 12-13 age division and became the first and only player in the event’s two-year history to record perfect scores in each of the skills categories. That national championship took place at Augusta National a few days before The Masters.
“It’s great because not a lot of the LPGA players get to play at Augusta National and I’m one of the girls who won there!” said Goldstein, 14, with a laugh. “We don’t have to specify what I won, but I won there.”
The lights and media focus aren’t quite as bright this week in Tulsa, Okla., where Goldstein is playing in her first U.S. Girls’ Junior Championship, but the teen hopes some of the confidence she gained from advancing through four levels of qualifying in the Drive, Chip and Putt event will translate into solid play in this week’s national championship.
In the driving division of the Drive, Chip and Putt Nationals, Goldstein shook off a heavy case of nervousness when she stepped to the tee. But after a few deep breaths, she striped her tee shot 243 yards to win her age division in the driving competition.
“I couldn’t feel my body on my first drive at Augusta National and it was scary to hit a drive in front of all of those people,” she admitted. “But once I hit that first shot, I knew I’d won the driving division, so I could just hit my second drive and relax a little.”
Goldstein was the last girl in the chipping competition. As it came closer to being her turn, she made an observation.
“I thought, ‘Nobody’s holed out so far. Why don’t I make a chip in?’” said the teen, who attends Faith Lutheran Middle/High School in Las Vegas.
So Goldstein stepped up and chipped her ball into the hole from nearly 30 yards to win the chipping event.
Next was the putting competition. Goldstein missed her 30-foot attempt by four feet and four inches, but she came back and slam-dunked her 15-foot putt to win the third skill challenge.
Goldstein won a trophy for each of the age-group skill categories. Two-time Masters champion Bubba Watson presented her the overall age-division award.
“It was fun knowing that someone who had won The Masters was presenting the award to me,” said Goldstein. “A few of the PGA Tour pros came out to watch and Adam Scott presented the awards to the 14-15 year-old winners.”
Goldstein said she was inspired to enter the Drive, Chip and Putt competition because her brother, Aidan Goldstein, qualified at age 12 in the inaugural year of the event. His sister walked outside the ropes watching her sibling at Augusta National in 2014, vowing that she would go home and practice with the hope of qualifying for the 2015 nationals.
“I practiced harder on those main skills and I won the local, sub-regional and regional competitions to make it into the nationals,” she said.
Goldstein is on her way to returning to Augusta National next spring for the 2016 Drive, Chip and Putt National Finals. She has already qualified through local competition and will compete in the sub-regional event in a few weeks. She wants to go back to Georgia, walk inside the ropes on the pristine Augusta National course and try to win the Girls 14-15 age division next year.
For more information about the Drive, Chip and Putt Championship, visit drivechipandputt.com.
While the Drive, Chip and Putt National Finals was a highlight to her 2015 golf season, Goldstein has posted solid results all year, starting with four top-10 junior tournament finishes through mid-April.
She paired with Las Vegas friend Veronica Joels in the U.S. Women’s Amateur Four-Ball at Bandon Dunes (Ore.) Golf Resort in early May. The two, who play out of TPC Summerlin in Las Vegas, were eliminated in the Round of 16 in match play.
Goldstein bounced back with a fifth-place finish at the AJGA Las Vegas Junior Championship in June, and won the American Junior Golf Association tournament in Lakewood, Wash., in early July.
But those crazy butterflies returned to her stomach for this week’s U.S. Girls’ Junior Championship. During Monday’s first round of stroke-play qualifying, Goldstein felt a familiar flutter.
“I felt the same way on the first hole Monday that I felt at Augusta National,” she said. “There were a lot of college coaches out there watching.”
Goldstein carded a nervous 4-over 74 in Monday’s opening round, but the scrappy junior birdied her last hole, the par-3 ninth hole, stroking her tee shot with a 4-hybrid to within six inches and tapping in her putt. She nearly aced another par-3 hole, during the same round, putting for birdie from five inches at No. 14.
And while this week’s championship is very different than the Drive, Chip and Putt event she experienced in April, Goldstein says she will bring what she gained in Augusta to Oklahoma this week.
“It’s good to know that I can make chip-ins and putts when I need to make them,” she said. “And it’s good to know that I can put my swing routine into play whether I’m at the Drive, Chip and Putt or at a USGA championship.”