April 01, 2018

DCP: Chea, Schuster Highlight 2018 National Champions

The early spring chill had yet to lift when the fifth-annual Drive, Chip and Putt National Finals teed off at Augusta National Golf Club early Sunday morning. Standing at the back of Augusta’s manicured Tournament Practice Facility, Nancy Lopez took in the scene, young girls chipping to her left, little boys hitting drives to her right, her eyes misting. 

“My dad,” she said, “would have loved this.”

Lopez was 8 when her father, Domingo, gave Nancy her first set of clubs. Never could she have dreamed of being that age and competing inside the gates at venerable Augusta National, which 80 talented youths ages 7-15 had the opportunity to do on Sunday, with winners crowned in four Boys and Girls age divisions. 

Taighan Chea of Bothell, Wash., is a wisp of a player at 9, and stood over one final 15-footer on Augusta’s ultra-slick 18th green with an inkling that he probably needed to make the putt to overtake talented left-hander Miles Russell in the Boys 7-9 Finals. Chea had studied the competitors before him and knew the putt broke ever so gently to the left. Everything about the putt felt right, and then ... his ball vanished into the cup, and he pumped his fist as a few hundred Sunday patrons roared with approval, much like thousands will next Sunday for the champion of the 82nd Masters Tournament. 

Asked his words to describe his moment, Chea said, “It felt like I won the Masters. It’s the best feeling ever.”

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