Arnold Palmer, Gary Player, Jack Nicklaus, Tiger Woods, Phil Mickelson, Bubba Watson – all golfers who made their mark on the Augusta National Golf Club in Augusta, Georgia. Now, Kings freshman Alexandra Swayne is trying to add her name to that list.
Swayne, who was voted First Team All-City by the local high school coaches association last fall, will be competing in the girls 14-15 age division of the Drive, Chip & Putt Championship held at Augusta National on Sunday morning, a day before the PGA tour will hit the same course for the first practice rounds leading up to the Masters. The event is televised live on the Golf Channel, and the winners are treated like celebrities, having to conduct interviews with the media and receiving congratulatory handshakes from the pros in attendance.
“It’s quite an experience,” said Swayne, whose tee time is set for 7:30 a.m. on Sunday. “You watch it on TV and you’re like, ‘I can’t wait to get there.’ It’s a once in a lifetime chance. Hopefully I can keep going. It’s really nerve wracking, especially with it being televised.”
To make it to Augusta, Swayne had to make it through three other competitions – a local tournament in Cincinnati, an area tournament in Cincinnati and a regional tournament at Crooked Stick in Carmel, Indiana. According to the Masters’ website, in only its second year of existence the competition was open to over 50,000 kids across all 50 states.
“Last year a girl from Eaton, Ohio that Alex plays golf against qualified for Augusta,” Alex’s father, Chuck Swayne, said. “Alex saw her on TV and said, ‘I’d like to try to do that.’ Somehow she beat out thousands of kids locally and she’s the representative for her age group.”
She took up golfing “around three years ago” according to her dad when they moved near TPC River’s Bend golf course in Maineville, Ohio, but Swayne’s passion for the game quickly grew. Most days during the summer, she’ll spend an hour or two working on her skills at the range before hitting the links for 18 holes only to return to the range or practice green for another hour or two later in the evening after dinner. That hard work has paid off in the competition.
In the finals, she will be asked to hit two drives at the range, two 15-20 yard chips at the practice green, and then four putts with the final one coming from the right side of the green on the 18th hole of Augusta National.
“I absolutely love chipping,” she said. “I’ll be outside on the putting green, chipping away and hacking at balls for hours. It’s my favorite part of golf.”
While she’s thrilled about the opportunity and happy just to be there, Swayne made the long trip to Georgia with her parents to win. She’s already sought advice from some of the game’s top professionals in hopes to gain a competitive edge … and possibly a shout-out in front of the cameras.
“I emailed some players and Zach Johnson told me, ‘Best of luck. The greens are slick, so make sure you practice on very fast surfaces; the faster the better,’ ” she said. “I also went back and forth with Rory McIlroy’s secretary. You know, if they happen to be there and they’re speaking to the cameras then hopefully they’ll have me in the back of their mind.”