Augusta to host youth competition

AUGUSTA, Ga. -- In an unprecedented move, Augusta National Golf Club will open its gates to junior golfers between the ages of 7 and 15 to participate in a drive, chip and putt competition on the Sunday before Masters week next year.

Chairman Billy Payne announced the new initiative in collaboration with the United States Golf Association and PGA of America on Monday.

"We believe April 6, 2014, will be a very special day for these kids, one they will surely never forget," Payne said.

There will be boys' and girls' groups divided into four age groups, with local and regional qualifiers taking place free of charge across the country.

A final group of 88 will qualify for what is being called the Drive, Chip & Putt Championship, to be conducted on Augusta National's practice range, with the putting competition taking place on the course's 18th green.

"It is our collective hope and belief that this quest to make it to Augusta National will become the dream of kids all over the country and their participation will inspire others to make the effort, and by doing so, to discover this wonderful, wonderful game," said Payne, who was joined by USGA president Glen Nager and PGA of America president Ted Bishop.

Payne said a small group of spectators will also be admitted and tickets will be made available through a lottery system. That is another first, as Sunday before tournament week has traditionally been closed to the public.

Those spectators will have access to the practice range as well as the area around the 18th green, which is near the first tee, ninth green and 10th, as well as the club's practice putting green.

Tournament participants and Augusta members will still be able to use the course on that Sunday.

Local qualifying events will take place at courses in 19 states and Washington, D.C. In total, local qualifiers will provide more than 17,000 opportunities to compete. PGA professionals and USGA professional staff and volunteers will conduct these competitions around the country.

Regional qualifying will be conducted at courses in Arizona, California, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Massachusetts, New Jersey, Texas (two events), Virginia and Washington.

Registration at DriveChipandPutt.com closes April 30.