TAMPA — There isn't a golfer in the world who wouldn't jump at the chance to play on the holy grounds of Augusta National, home of The Masters.
On July 6, The Downs Golf Practice Facility is offering just that opportunity, but with a catch — weekend hackers can stay home. This is for kids between the ages of 7 and 15. The Downs is one of 110 golf facilities throughout the country that will help select the 44 boys and 44 girls who will participate in the Drive, Chip & Putt competition next April 6, the Sunday before The Masters.
The Drive, Chip & Putt competition, as its name suggests, combines the three key skills in golf. The competition at The Downs is a qualifying event, so the winners don't necessarily earn the visit to Augusta, but is it a big step on the way there.
“We are excited to be a part of their national event to involve kids in a lifetime of golf,” said The Downs teaching professional Jon Johnson.
Johnson is a former assistant professional at Augusta National and his office at The Downs is adorned with Masters souvenirs. He goes every year and is excited that kids from The Downs have a chance to participate.
Competition will start at 8 a.m. in four different age groups. Golfers will play in threesomes, starting with the driving part of the event and followed by chipping, then putting. Johnson will supervise the event.
“It is so exciting, the whole Masters experience,” Johnson said. “To play on the 18th hole at The Masters is such an experience. The kids will remember it for their lifetime.”
The event just started last year, and was such a hit that Augusta National will keep it going. Johnson thinks at least one local golfer can represent The Downs at Augusta.
“We are excited,” Johnson said. “I am there every year and it is always incredible. To think that kids can have the chance to play the 18th hole at Augusta to compete for the championship is something that the kids will never forget.” For more on the competition, call The Downs at (813) 854-4946.