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  • Melanie Grafe

Three STPGA talented and aspiring junior golfers

Three STPGA talented and aspiring junior golfers have qualified and will be representing the STPGA at the Drive, Chip and Putt National Finals at Augusta National in Augusta, Georgia. on Sunday April 7, 2024, just before the start of the 88th Masters Tournament.

 Hayes Pethel (age 11, South Central Region) of Belton; Waits Rodriguez (age 9, South Central Region) of Houston; and Texas Terry (age 11, Upper Midwest Region) of Austin have won in their age division and are among the 80 participants that will compete in the National Finals at Augusta.

The Drive, Chip and Putt was founded in 2013 by the Masters Tournament, the U.S.G.A, and PGA.  It’s a free nationwide junior golf development competition focusing on the three fundamental skills: drive, chip, and putt. Participants in each age division compete in all three skill set competitions.  Each participant hits three shots per skill.  The points are accumulated per shot; the one with the most points will be the overall champion in each age division.  The DCP is open to junior golfers, girls and boys, ages 7-15.

Hayes, Waits and Texas await the big event at Augusta and can’t wait to attend the DCP competition.  They are smiling from ear to ear with so much excitement and anticipation of going to Augusta.  Their golf skills are remarkable, they are confident, and have a superb attitude with a real love of the game. These three ambitious junior golfers have defiantly put their time and dedication into golf:  practicing, playing in tournaments around the country and some internationally as well as fun golf weekends with their friends and family, that’s for sure.  They all have a great support system and extraordinary attitude that helps them during their wins and continue to strive to be their best.  They have a good head on their shoulders and the takeaway from all three is it’s okay to have a bad day, just keep practicing.  Texas says the most difficult thing about golf is, “Knowing no matter what you do, you will never hit every shot perfect.” But practice is essential.   Their eye is on the PGA Tour when they get older.

Texas Terry from the Upper Midwest Region is in fifth grade.  He was born in Austin, TX and now lives in Manor, TX.  Texas started playing golf at age 5 and soon played in tournaments.  His dad and grandpa introduced Texas to the game.  Both play with Texas and his dad is a proud coach.  His first every first tournament at Harvey Pinnick and he got first place.  And that started his future of playing in tournaments.  He loved the competition.  Texas said “there are so many memorable moments, and I’ll keep it under 5:  making it to Augusta, winning the US Kids World Championship at age 8, made it to Insperity and got to play with Scott McCarron, and playing in South Africa with Nathan Koch and went on a safari, and he had five hole-in-ones.  And one was in a STPGA tournament which he ultimately won because of the hole in one.  Texas practices about two hours a day unless he has school sports. He practices about one skill each day.  Tournament days are different.   His favorite golf course ShadowGlen Golf Club in Manor, Texas in his hometown and his favorite pro is Scottie Scheffler.  Texas says, “it’s a dream come true making it to Augusta, and dream come true for my family.”  This is his 3rd year participating in the DCP and made it to regionals each time.  “I made it because he practiced hard, and his family let him practice two hours a day on the golf course”. Texas’ favorite club in his bag is the Scott Cameron putter. Cause you “Drive for Show and Putt for Dough”.  His goals are to make it to college golf and professional.  He is going to have fun and soak up the experience at Augusta and make great memories he said.  His advice to upcoming junior golfer is to “never give up”, make new memories and meet new friends.

Waits Rodriguez started playing golf at age 2 with his dad, his mentor and coach and caddy.  His grandfather also has an essential part in Wait’s golf career, taking him out on the course several days during the week to practice.  Without them, Waits said he wouldn’t be here going to Augusta.  Waits wants to be a PGA golfer and play on the Tour when he grows up.  The most memorable moment in golf was his chipping.  Waits says although there is a lot of pressure, he feels “super confident” in his golf skills.  He has a specific routine for his regular practices.  First, he chips, then putts and last he practices his drive.  He changes it up for tournament practice: chip, drive and then putt.  He said this routine is doing great for him.  He loves going out on the course. During the weekend he plays in lots of tournaments:  Little Linksters and First Tee.  The most difficult thing about golf Waits said is “accepting you did things wrong and not lying to yourself” so you’re able to practice more on those weaknesses.  Waits loves challenging golf courses, lots of water and small greens.  Jordon Spieth is his favorite golfer, and his fav 56-degree Bob Vokey bounce 8 degrees, In grind. This Bob Vokey gives him more confidence in his chipping.  The longest drive he hit was 235 yards.  His favorite golf course is in California at Wildhorse, challenging for both beginners and avid golfers.  His future goal is to receive a golf scholarship and to attend Standford University and then turn pro and play on the PGA Tour.  Waits said he is more excited than anyone else to play at Augusta. He said, “I want to win, but we’re here just to have fun, so let’s do this.”

Hayes was born in Akron, Ohio and currently lives in Berlton, Texas.  He is 11 years old, almost 12 and in 6thgrade.  He started playing golf at age 8 with the Heart of Texas Association and then Chris McMillion Golf Academy.  His dad introduced him to golf.  During his time with Heart of Texas, Hayes loved the game from then on.  Hayes’ most memorable moment in golf was when he almost made a hole-in-one.  Hayes plays every weekend in tournaments and loves to travel.  He practices every day of the week.  After tournaments he relaxes and eats at one of his favorite fast-food restaurants.  The next week he works on improvements from the prior week. Hayes said the most difficult thing in golf is driving. He doesn’t feel like he hits it as long as he should hit it and that makes it tough.  But he can rely on his putting and short game to get him through it.  Hayes loves competition and traveling.  He has such a great attitude.  His favorite golf course is Sammons Golf Club in Temple, TX, favorite golf course is Phil Mickelson and favorite club is the putter or 3. wood. His longest drive is around 220 yards.  His goal is to become a professional golfer on the PGA Tour.   He plans on being on the junior high and high school golf team.  He is so excited for the opportunity to play at Augusta.  His advice to junior golfers is to keep practicing and keep working on your game, no matter what happens.

Waits, Hayes and Texas enjoy playing with the STPGA that allows them to play all different levels of golf courses.  “It’s a great organization”, Hayes said, “they provide great courses to play at” Texas said, “the STPGA is amazing.  We play at golf courses that we normally wouldn’t play in Texas. Lots of variety. Lots of pristine course we play.”   

“Participants compete in all three skills (Drive, Chip and Putt) and hit three shots per skill for a total of nine shots. Points are accumulated per shot for each skill. The overall champion in each division is determined by the participant with the most points accumulated between all three skills.”  Scoring for each participant will attempt 3 Drives down a 40-yard-wide fairway. Drives must finish in the fairway to score points.  Each participant will attempt three 10–15-yard chips at the scoring hole. Chips will be measured from the center of the hole with scoring rings.  Each participant will attempt one putt from 6', 15' and 30'. Putts will be measured from the center of the hole with scoring rings. 





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