Cary teen takes aim at Augusta National

calexander@newsobserver.comApril 4, 2014 

— Jack Massei attended the Masters last year, walking the grounds of Augusta National Golf Club, following Rory McIroy and Tiger Woods, taking it all in.

This year he’ll be getting in a few swings of his own.

Massei, 14, will compete Sunday in the Drive, Chip and Putt Championship at Augusta National. Eighty-eight junior golfers from around the nation will take part in the inaugural event, which will be televised live by The Golf Channel.

The driving and chipping competition will be at the Augusta National practice area, and the final putts taken on the 18th hole.

“I think it’s going to be pretty cool,” Massei said. “Especially being on the 18th green to putt. That should be fun.”

Massei will compete in the Boys 14 & 15 age group. Akshay Bhatia, 12, of Wake Forest will be participating in the Boys 12 & 13 group.

Founded in collaboration by the Masters Tournament Foundation, The PGA of America and the U.S. Golf Association, the Drive, Chip and Putt Championship is a free competition open to boys and girls ages 7-15. About 10,000 juniors took part in the 110 local qualifiers, then the 11 regional qualifiers that were held nationally in the summer of 2013.

Both Massei and Bhatia won their respective age-group qualifiers at the regional to get to Augusta and will represent the Middle Atlantic region. Points are earned on length and accuracy off the tee, closest-to-the-pin chipping, and putting competition.

Bhatia, who won the 2013 North Carolina Boys 13 & Under Championship, and Massei were among the eight juniors who advanced from the regional at River Bend Golf and Country Club in Great Falls, Va.

Massei spends most days playing at Prestonwood Country Club, where his father, Matt, is the club’s general manager. He has shot a 65 on the Meadows course, but also beat his dad one day with a 71. That was a first.

“He was well aware of it. He was keeping track of my score on the back nine,” Jack Massei said, smiling. “It was a fun day.”

But going to Augusta National should be a special day – a keepsake memory. Jack Massei isn’t sure if the family will get to drive down Magnolia Lane to the clubhouse, but he may be more interested in ripping that first drive off the practice tee straight and long.

The family will stay and see the Masters practice round on Monday. Jack Massei, who said his dream is “to be on the PGA Tour one day,” was at the Masters each of the past two years, and said he wanted to see McIlroy and Woods play.

“They’re just fun to watch,” Massei said.

Soon, a lot of people will be watching him.

“I think I’ll be a little nervous when we get there,” Massei said, grinning. “I think I will be. Yeah, I will be.”

Alexander: 919-829-8945; Twitter: @ice_chip

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