Drive, Chip and Putt is a golf competition for kids, but for former Forest Grove and current Banks resident Charlotte Giannetti, it's an opportunity to travel to one of the game's truly iconic venues: Augusta National.
The 8-year-old has cleared two of the competition's three hurdles between her and the home of the Masters golf tournament, placing third overall at the local qualifier in Woodburn this past June, then finishing second at the sub-regional at Meriwether National Golf Course in Hillsboro on Aug. 1.
As a result of her qualifying effort two weeks ago, Giannetti will travel to Pebble Beach for the regional event Sept. 25, where all age division winners will qualify for the final held at Augusta National Golf Club on April 2, 2023, the Sunday before the Masters golf tournament.
The Drive, Chip and Putt competition was created in 2013 through a joint venture between the Masters Tournament, United States Golf Association and the PGA of America. It's a free nationwide junior golf development competition aimed at growing the game by focusing on the three fundamental skills employed in golf.
As part of the competition, contestants hit three drives, three chips and three putts. Points are tallied based on the combination of both accuracy and distance of drives and, for chips and puts, proximity to the hole.
Giannetti didn't hesitate when asked her favorite discipline.
"I like hitting the ball really, really far," she said, "because it's super-fun to hit the ball really far."
Charlotte and her twin sister, Lucy, got their first taste of the game of golf about five years ago. Since then, the two have spent countless hours honing their craft at area golf courses Quail Valley, Meriwether National and Forest Hills.
The girls' father, Don Giannetti, is head girls golf coach at Banks. He said Charlotte and Lucy Giannetti spend at least an hour and usually two, three days each week working on their game. Don said they've yet to really take that work to the golf course itself, but for now, they love to practice, and that practice is paying off in terms of both their skills and understanding of the game.
"They like it," Don Giannetti said. "When the weather is nice, we take advantage of it, but when it's inclement, we practice inside. They come with me pretty regularly to high school golf practice, so they're at the golf course a lot."
On the first of just a handful of occasions they've been on the actual course, Don Giannetti had them start 150 yards from the green. Thinking it was safe for the 8-year-olds, he told them to let it rip.
That turned out to be a mistake.
"We were at Meriwether and I had them hit from the 150-yard marker," Don Giannetti said. "We just teed it up there, and I'll be darned if they didn't drive the green and into the group in front of us."
While the Drive, Chip and Putt competition is free, the travel isn't, so the Giannettis are fundraising to help pay for the expense of getting to and from California, along with their time at Pebble Beach. Don Giannetti is selling raffle tickets to those interested in donating to the fundraising effort, with prizes including but not limited to rounds of golf at local area golf courses.
He's also considering a scramble event held locally, along with a pancake breakfast held at Charlotte's school, St. Francis of Assisi Catholic School in Banks, proceeds from which would go towards the effort to fund Charlotte's endeavor.
And is Charlotte Giannetti excited about the opportunity to travel to California and compete for a spot at Augusta National? Well, what do you think?
"Yeah, I'm really excited," she said. "I'm looking forward to making it to the finals and going to the Masters."
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