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Youth 'Drive, Chip, and Putt' Finals to Be Held at Augusta National

Photo: Billy Payne, chairman of Augusta National Golf Club, speaks during a media conference on Wednesday, the day before the start of the Masters golf tournament in Augusta, Ga. (Morry Gash/AP)

Starting in 2014, youth golfers—both boys and girls—between the ages of 7 and 15 will have the opportunity to appear at Augusta National Golf Club for the finals of a new Drive, Chip, and Putt championship.

The competition, announced Monday by the Masters Tournament Foundation, United States Golf Association, and the PGA, will have its finals take place at the course in Georgia on the Sunday before the Masters Tournament next year (on April 6, 2014).

The thought of staging a competition like this at Augusta would have been nothing more than a pipe dream up until a few years ago. For the first 70 years of the club's existence, up through last August, Augusta National didn't allow female members.

"I think that allowing women to be members of Augusta National has opened up new doors of opportunity for the club to leverage what they have created with the players' championship to be more than just a great sporting event," said Nancy Hogshead-Makar, the senior director of advocacy at the Women's Sports Foundation, in a brief phone interview today. "If they don't have women involved in membership and leadership, then there's no opportunity for them to be able to reach out to young kids. ... Sports are equally important to daughters as it is to sons. Families value girls playing sports."

The championship will be open to boys and girls who will be at least 7 and no older than 15 as of April 6, 2014. The participants will be divided into four age categories: 7-9, 10-11, 12-13, and 14-15.

To make it to the greens of Augusta, the youth golfers will first compete in local qualifying events from June 1 to July 15 in 11 regions before moving onto regional qualifying events from Aug. 1 to Aug. 31. The top two overall point earners in each boys' and girls' age group at the local qualifying events will advance to the regional qualifier, and the overall champion in each division at the 11 regional events will advance to the championship at Augusta (88 finalists in total).

"Generations of players have been inspired by the dream of sinking a winning putt on the 18th green at Augusta National," said Billy Payne, chairman of Augusta National, in a statement. "Now an exciting opportunity exists to make that dream a reality. I am confident that our collective efforts with the USGA and The PGA of America will showcase the talents of kids who already play this game and motivate others to give the sport a try."

The championship round will be produced and broadcast by the Golf Channel. The youth golfers will tee off at Augusta's practice green, with the putting competition to be held on the 18th hole of the course.

Registration for the event, available at drivechipandputt.com, closes April 30, 2013.

Photo: Billy Payne, chairman of Augusta National Golf Club, speaks during a media conference on Wednesday, the day before the start of the Masters golf tournament in Augusta, Ga. (Morry Gash/AP)

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