3 Massachusetts Youth Competiting In Drive, Chip & Putt National Finals - MASSGOLF


The Drive, Chip & Putt National Finals is a three-part skills competition for youth ages 7-15 held annually at Augusta National Golf Club the Sunday before the Masters begins. It will be broadcast live on Golf Channel at 8 a.m. ET Sunday, April 7. Callen Cronin (11, Haverhill), Aarya Tsarong (10, Newton), and Champa Visetsin (15, Sudbury) will all represent Massachusetts.

At just 10 years old, Aarya Tsarong has experienced golf in more places than most people will see in their entire lives. She has hit drives through foggy Himalayan foothills, chipped to greens (and drank free OJ) on the oasis courses of Oman that are nestled along the Persian Gulf, and putted on countless surfaces throughout the United States, including North Carolina’s beloved Pinehurst Resort.

In all those places, she has worn a hat with the Masters logo affixed to its front. Was it foreshadowing or just the product of fortunate circumstances? Either way, Tsarong’s extraordinary journey will now include Augusta National as she participates in the Drive, Chip & Putt National Finals on Sunday morning. This is the 10th edition of this event, which for the past decade has inspired thousands of adolescents to test their skills for a coveted spot at the illustrious course.

Online: About The Finalists | Leaderboard | Live Stream | About Drive, Chip & Putt


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Even at a young age, Tsarong takes on everything in life with a purpose – and not just those predawn practice sessions. She appreciates the beauty of each course, makes friends with fellow golfers her age, and, perhaps most importantly, takes immense pride in her family’s Tibetan roots. After all, she’s the great-grandniece of the 14th Dalai Lama, the spiritual leader of Tibetan Buddhism. With it, she portrays some of its core principles: Kindness, Compassion, and Open-mindedness. She will hit putts with blindfolds and meditate to focus on the journey, not just the destination.

“It helps my mind and makes me calmer,” said Tsarong, who has remained level-headed even when she found out she won the qualifier back in September at TPC Boston. “Golf can give you a bit of a temper, and it spoils the game.”

Aarya’s father, Tenzin, can attest to the pathways golf can create, not just for himself but for others. A self-taught golfer, he opened his own golf academy, helping young people from all over the world learn the beautiful game. Eventually, Aarya (pronounced Aa-ree-uh) wanted in on the fun. Upon taking some swings and then watching the Netflix documentary “The Short Game” about the U.S. Kids Golf World Championship, Aarya saw her place in the game. Tenzin said his daughter watched the film almost daily, getting to meet and play golf with some of the best in the world.

While golf is a beautiful game enjoyed globally, the Tsarong family opted to come to the United States four years ago to provide Aarya with opportunities to showcase her skills on an organized junior tour circuit. Within 48 hours of arriving in the U.S., she won her first-ever golf event at Acushnet River Valley. By taking advantage of the First Tee program and Youth on Course, she got the full New England golf experience and met many fellow youth golfers. She has qualified for the U.S. Kids World Golf Championship at Pinehurst for three straight years, each time posing for a photo mirroring the pose alongside Payne Stewart’s statue.

Winchester Country Club assistant professional Seul-Ki Hawley, who in 2021 became the first woman to compete in the Mass Open, has been captivated by her lessons with Aarya, saying she possesses a skillset and mindset rare for her age.

“Right away, I could tell that she had a unique ability to process information and make adjustments to complex instruction,” said Hawley, who will be on-site at Augusta National to cheer on one of her star pupils. “I enjoy passing along information I wish I had known when I was a competitive junior golfer. This is going to be a head-spinning event,” Hawley said. I hope she can slow down and have some fun. That was hard for me while I was playing professionally. She will remember this the rest of her life.”


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Callen Cronin watched the National Finals last year when Massachusetts summer resident Maya Palanza Gaudin took home the girls 11-12 title. This year, Callen will wear the same light green Maya wore and hopes to be able to win at Augusta, just like Maya or his favorite player, Scottie Scheffler, did in the 2022 Masters.

For years, he has watched the lush green playing surface, hoping he would one day walk the grounds. And now, not only is he getting to drive down Magnolia Lane this week, but he’ll putt on the same 18th green where so many legends have been made.

“I’m a little nervous, but it’s going to be fun,” said Cronin, whose sentiment and lighthearted disposition match those of many of his fellow finalists. When it comes to managing those nerves, though, “I just try to find a zone where I’m not nervous. When I’m hitting a shot, I zone out instead of thinking about it.”

Callen Cronin poses with his Drive, Chip & Putt medals and his ticket to Augusta. (Contributed)

Cronin will have a lot to think about in the next few days. One thing’s for sure: he’s proud to represent his home club, Bradford Country Club, where his dad worked on the grounds crew for several years and where he took many swings starting at age 2 using plastic clubs.

He took several golf lessons with longtime head pro Kevin Murphy, who, among many things, taught Cronin to “get off my back foot” in his golf swing. It took several years, but at age 9, he finally beat his father, Devin, head-to-head and broke 80 at the same time. Once in a while, he’ll tee it up with former Mass Golf Player of the Year Nick Maccario, who in 2020 set Bradford’s course record with a 56. Maccario will be among those back in Mass rooting on his fellow Haverhillite.

After several attempts at qualifying, Cronin broke through this year with accurate drives, deft chipping, and a pair of good putts on a windswept, rainy afternoon at the TPC Boston final qualifier. And now Callen, according to his father, is almost as excited that they get to watch the Monday practice round as he is for Sunday’s competition. And it wouldn’t be an Augusta experience without the inexpensive but delectable cuisine. While Cronin said he’ll pass on the pimento cheese sandwich, he’s excited to give the peach ice cream a try, one of many sweet things he’ll experience these next few days.

Cronin will get to show off his golf swing this Sunday on Golf Channel. (Contributed)


It’s hard enough to make it to Augusta once, but never mind earning a return trip. Sudbury’s Champa Visetsin has done that and then some. She will make her third and final appearance in the Drive, Chip & Putt National Finals as she competes in the age-max 14-15-year-old category.

“Augusta is everything you imagine it is,” she said in a video interview with Boston 25 News. “It’s so beautiful. Everything there is so perfectly maintained. It’s an honor to play on such a prestigious course.”

Experiencing Augusta is one thing; now, Visetsin hopes this will be the year she finally raises the trophy. In 2021 and 2022, she finished T7 and 10th, respectively; however, in 2021, she was the only player in her division to make the putt on the 18th. In the past year, she’s made tremendous strides in her golf game, earning Dual Country All-Star accolades, placing T3 in the 2023 MIAA Girls’ Golf State Championship, and representing Team Mass Golf in the Girls’ Junior Inter-City Matches. 

While the same old nerves will be there, one thing Visetsin now recognizes is that being on TV at a venue like Augusta National means she certainly is pretty good at this game and has a bright future in it.

Champa Visetsin has one last chance to compete in the Drive, Chip & Putt National Finals. (Drive, Chip & Putt)