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Headline: Michael Thorbjornsen and Alexa Pano Make the Bay State Proud with Drive, Chip & Putt Championship Victories
For Immediate Release: April 3, 2016
|Scenes from the 2016 Drive, Chip & Putt Finals|
Norton, MA — Eighty excited young golfers made the magical trip down Magnolia Lane as the sun rose on April 3rd.
By the end of the day, eight of those junior golfers – four boys and four girls – were crowned champions at the third-annual Drive, Chip and Putt National Finals held at Augusta National Golf Club and broadcast live on Golf Channel.
Conducted in partnership between the Masters Tournament, the PGA of America and the United States Golf Association (USGA), the Drive, Chip and Putt Championship is a free, nationwide youth golf development program open to boys and girls, ages 7-15, in four age categories.
Stealing the show were two juniors with Bay State ties.
Michael Thorbjornsen, the 2015 Massachusetts Boys Amateur Champion who lives in Wellesley, captured the Boys 13-14 division title after collecting 23 points.
A strong second-place driving finish and a win in the chip category propelled Thorbjornsen to victory. Tied for the lead after the chip category, he finished with 23 points, just ahead of a three-way tie for second place by finalists Daniel Uranga (Wilder, Id.), Chase Venn (Columbia, Mo.) and Marco Punzo (Prosper, Texas) at 22 points.
“This was great, especially at Augusta National. It’s definitely my favorite course of all time, and coming here was such a great experience,” Thorbjornsen said. “I can’t believe what’s happening right now. Everything has been great – just walking around here, looking at all the holes, has been awesome. Chipping, putting, and especially being here and putting on the 18th green, is amazing.”
In the Girls 10-11 Divison, Alexa Pano collected a first-place 10 points in the drive category and then 9 points in chipping to give her a total of 26 points which was good for a solid seven-point victory.
One of seven finalists in the program’s history to make a return trip to Augusta National, Pano was eager for another chance to claim victory after placing third in the inaugural 2014 competition. Pano won the drive category and placed second in chipping.
“I’m literally so excited. It’s haunted me hitting those two drives out of bounds [in 2014], so just to get that one in-bounds made the whole day for me. I was so excited two years ago just to be here, and I’m more excited now to be able to relax and just play.”
Pano was born in Westboro and her father Rick was a member at Marlborough Country Club before the family moved to Florida where they now reside. Pano is well known for her star role in the award-winning 2013 documentary “The Short Game”, which followed eight youngsters as they trained for, then competed in, the 2012 US Kids Golf World Championship in Pinehurst, N.C.
Tens of thousands of youngsters had the opportunity to qualify for the event, which began with more than 250 local qualifiers at courses across all 50 states last summer. From there, the top finishers advanced through 50 subregionals to one of 10 regional qualifiers that included several USGA Championship and PGA Championship sites. Finally, the 80 winners across the four age divisions earned a trip to Augusta National to participate in the Drive, Chip and Putt National Finals on the eve of the 2016 Masters Tournament.
The four female champions were: Emerson Blair, 9, of West Point, Miss. (ages 7-9); Alexa Pano, 11, of Lake Worth, Fla. (ages 10-11); Kayla Sam, 13, of Anaheim Hills, Calif. (ages 12-13); and Alyssa Montgomery, 15, of Knoxville, Tenn. (ages 14-15).
The four male champions were: Stephen Robert Hernandez, 9, of Houston (ages 7-9); Christian Kim, 11, of Vernon Hills, Ill. (ages 10-11); Ty Griggs, 13, of Manteca, Calif. (ages 12-13); and Michael Thorbjornsen, 14, of Wellesley, Mass. (ages 14-15).
Registration is now open for the 2017 Drive, Chip & Putt Championship. CLICK HERE to learn more