Editor’s note: This bulk of this story was written more than a year ago to preview the appearance by three talented young Oklahoma golfers in the 2020 National Drive Chip and Putt finals at Augusta National. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Masters was then moved to the fall, while the DCP finals were postponed until this spring. Although the three contestants are now 10, they will still compete in the 7-9 finals.
By Ken MacLeod
His dad is a former golf professional and his mother is one of the state’s most respected teaching professionals, the director of junior golf instruction at Battle Creek Golf Course in Broken Arrow and the director of the U.S. Kids Junior Golf Tour in northeast Oklahoma.
So maybe it’s a natural that Porter Hart excels at golf.
The same could be said for Chase Hughes of Oklahoma City, whose father Nick Hughes won seven tournaments in his collegiate career at Oklahoma City University from 1997-2000 after winning a state high school championship at Hennessey in 1996.
Bloodlines aside, however, you’ve got to have the want-to as well, and both Porter and Chase have it in spades, as does Kylie Fisher, the third Oklahoman who has qualified for and will finally be competing in the national Drive, Chip and Putt finals Sunday April 4 at Augusta National.
Porter, a redhead, has a passion for competition, whether its golf, basketball or baseball. The only thing preventing him from practicing golf more than two hours a day in the spring is school and baseball practice.
Hart will be taking parents Amanda Fisher and Trey Hart as well as aunt Suzie Fisher with him to the finals, an event televised by The Golf Channel. The trip to the finals comes with tickets for Monday’s practice round for The Masters.
Surprisingly, as involved as Amanda and her twin Susie Fisher have been in the golf scene since moving here to play collegiate golf at Oral Roberts and the University of Tulsa, respectively, neither of the Australia natives nor Trey, who worked at various local courses before starting an excavation business, has ever been to Augusta National.
That is not the case for Shauna and Randy Fisher, parents of Kylie Fisher of Tahlequah, who also qualified for the national finals at the regionals held in the fall of 2019 at The Alotian near Little Rock, Ark. They visited in 2005 to make sure they got to see Jack Nicklaus play the historic course. Going with their daughter for the DCP finals will add a whole different level of excitement.
Kylie is likely to be the one taking it all in stride. Randy says he is amazed at how, once competition begins in the DCP contests or on the U.S. Kids Tour, where she has been dominant the past two years including winning the Oklahoma Tour Championship both years, Kylie calls on an inner focus and calm.
“I feel the pressure and get nervous but she doesn’t seem to,” Randy said. “She just focuses in.”
All three youngsters were originally hoping to catch a glance of Tiger Woods, who would have been the defending champion had the event been held as scheduled. Now with Woods recovering from a serious automobile accident, they hope to see other stars. Kylie listed Gary Woodland and Bubba Watson among her other favorite players, while Porter is hoping to see Rickie Fowler, Justin Thomas and Rory McIlroy. Chase is partial to Fowler, Dustin Johnson, Bryson DeChambeau and Matthew Wolff.
Kylie plays most of her golf at Cherokee Springs in Tahlequah but also takes lessons from Regina Goodwin in Tulsa. She is a powerful player and usually wins the driving contests in her age group.
Since qualifying, she was the runnerup in the U.S. Kids Oklahoma State Championship and won her local fall tour.
In addition to his success on the U.S Kids Tour, Porter played for the Tulsa team in the PGA Junior League that reached the national finals last fall at Grayhawk Golf Club in Scottsdale, Ariz. Porter also was the runnerup in the U.S. Kids Oklahoma State Championship in 2020.
Hughes has established himself as a national star in junior golf. He won the U.S. Kids World Championship for 10-year-olds at Pinehurst last August. He also won the Callaway World Championships in California in July, two regional U.S. Kids Championships (Desert Shootout in Arizona and Texas Open at Horseshoe Bay Resort near Austin, Texas). He won the U.S. Kids Oklahoma State Championship and the Midwest State Championship last summer, then started this year by winning the Desert Shootout again. He shot a U.S. Kids Championship record 27 at an event in Oklahoma City
Hughes is set to be recognized soon as the U.S, Kids Player of the Year for 2020. He began playing at age 2, won his first event at age 4 and has been and has been accumulating U.S. Kids titles ever since, including placing third nationally in the finals at Pinehurst in 2019.
Chase qualified for the 7-9 DCP finals in 2019 and was leading his division after the driving and chipping portions, but blew his first putt well past the hole on the fast greens at Augusta. He hopes to win his division this time.
“It’s an incredible event,” Nick said. “They treat the kids so well. They drive down Magnolia Lane, have access to the clubhouse, hit balls on the Champions Range. Last year (2019) Fred Couples, Adam Scott, Vijay Singh and Sergio Garcia were all out there.
Nick and his wife Ashley have two other children, son Rhett who is a 15-year-old sophomore on the golf team at Edmond Santa Fe and recently finished second in an OJGT event at Bailey Ranch, and daughter Bree, 12, a competitive volleyball player. Nick and his sons play and practice at Gaillardia Golf Club in Oklahoma City, and Chase has been taking lessons from former Gaillardia pro and now teaching professional at Southern Hills CC in Tulsa Ryan Rody for the past six years.