After watching the Masters on television over the years, Kyra Cox and Sam O’Hara are stepping into another dimension.
The locals will be experiencing Augusta National live and in person this weekend.
Cox and O’Hara played their way up Magnolia Lane and will be competing in the annual Drive, Chip & Putt finals on Sunday to kick off Masters week. They will be taking nine swings on hallowed ground.
The experience will play out with a national television audience looking on.
“When I told my friends I was going, they knew about Drive, Chip & Putt,” said O’Hara, an 11-year-old from Rye. “I don’t think they believed me, though. And this week they were like, ‘Wait, are you really going?’ ”
Cox was the top qualifier last September at her regional qualifying site, The Country Club in Brookline, Mass.
It was a fitting exclamation point at the end of a breakout season. The 15-year-old John Jay sophomore won the New York State Junior PGA Championship and the New York State Golf Association Women’s Amateur.
She also captured an AJGA title in Boston.
Cox routinely spends up to 30 hours a week keeping her game in tune, and has been working on drills specifically geared to prepare for this competition.
“I was fortunate it wasn’t a bad winter so I got outside as much as I could,” the South Salem resident said. “I worked a lot on strength and fitness and when I was down in Florida last week at Innisbrook you could see the yardage I picked up.”
Drives now routinely come to rest 260 yards off the tee.
“I’m a little nervous, but that’s normal,” Cox said. “I never get to a point where I think nerves will affect me. I’m super confident in my game right now.”
And that’s normal.
“Kyra’s focus is on a completely different level than most of her competitors,” said Met PGA junior golf director Dan Frankel, who’s seen her development over the last three years. “She plays in her own zone. You can see the determination and passion she has in each and every swing.”
Cox’s father, Keith, has been her only coach.
“She knows Augusta is like golf heaven,” he said. “I’m so excited for her. I never tell her but I always have jitters in my stomach when she plays. I don’t even think Kyra gets nervous. To her, it is what it is and she just performs.”
Competitors hit three drives that must land in a generous fairway. Points are given based on distance. They chip from three distances and putt from three spots. Points are given based on proximity to the hole.
The highest total wins.
O’Hara also qualified at The Country Club last September.
The fifth-grader at Brunswick School also plays football, baseball and basketball. Like Cox, he plays in Met PGA Junior Tour events in the summer and has already broken 80.
“I practiced a lot for this over the winter,” O’Hara said. “I’d go to Apawamis for an hour two or three times a week. I might be a little nervous before I start, but once I’m going that usually goes away. I think it’s going to be a lot of fun.”
Entering the 2017 Drive Chip & Putt contest
There are four age categories for boys and girls, 7-9 years, 10-11 years, 12-13 years and 14-15 years. Participants will be grouped based on their age as of the championship final on Sunday, April 2, 2017.
Finalists have to qualify at local, sub-regional and regional levels
There are three local venues hosting local qualifiers this summer, The Stanwich Club in Greenwich, Conn., on June 27, The Apawamis Club in Rye on July 11 and Knollwood Country Club in Elmsford on July 27.
For more details and entry information, click here for the website.