Two young Oklahoma golfers fared very well in the finals of Drive, Chip and Putt contest at Augusta National Sunday.
Ryder Cowan of Edmond finished second in the boys 12-13 age division, while Chase Hughes, 8, of Oklahoma City, placed fourth overall in the 7-8 age division.
Cowan summed up his first visit to Augusta National in three words.
“Best birthday ever,” said Cowan, 13.
Cowan turned 14 on Monday. His father, Sean, served as his caddie and was also making his first trip to Augusta.
“My dad was so pumped,” Cowan said. “This was the first time he’s seen the course too, so to be able to share this together was really cool. It’s something I’ll never forget.”
“I couldn’t believe I did that,” Cowan said of his first drive. “I just lifted my head and thought, ‘Oh my gosh.’ ”
With pressure mounting, the Oklahoma teenager striped his second attempt 253 yards to place second in the driving portion of the competition. Cowan also placed second in the chipping event, while tying for fifth in putting. Matthew Vital, of Bethlehem, Pa., captured first overall.
“Right when we drove in I thought, ‘Wow, this is where I get to play?’ ” Cowan said. “The course is amazing and I can’t wait to see all of it tomorrow. It looks way different up close than it does on TV.”
Cowan and his dad returned to Augusta National Monday for an official birthday celebration. As for next year, although Cowan will advance to the 14-15 age division, his goal remains the same.
“I want to be back,” he said. “I really want to make it back next year — that’s my No. 1 goal.”
Nick Hughes had been to Augusta National on two occasions before the Drive, Chip and Putt National Finals — once for a practice round and the other a tournament day. None of those experiences, however, compared to Sunday.
“It doesn’t get any better than this,” said Hughes, whose son, Chase, competed in the Boys 7-9 division. “I’ve been to Augusta National before but I never got to stand where I stood today.”
Chase, 8, placed fourth overall in his age division. He finished third in both the driving and chipping events before struggling on No. 18 green.
Conner Ford, of Mount Vernon, Ky., placed first overall.
Throughout Sunday, the elder Hughes made a point to remind his son of what was taking place.
“I patted him on the back and said, ‘Hey, thanks for getting us this trip,’ ” said Nick, laughing. “To be able to walk onto No. 18 green is something I’ll never forget. I know he won’t either.”
Hughes has one more year in the 7-9 age group and hopes to qualify for the 2020 National Finals. Last year, Hughes placed third — and was the low American — at the U.S. Kids Golf World Championship at Pinehurst Golf Resort.
“I hope Chase continues to improve,” Nick said. “If he can get back (to Augusta National) next year, that would be incredible. That would mean a lot.”
When asked what his favorite part of Augusta National is, Chase simply said, “The grass. It’s the greenest grass I’ve ever seen.”
See complete coverage at the Drive, Chip and Putt website HERE.