Golf

This Myrtle Beach resident will compete in national finals of event at Augusta National

A Myrtle Beach resident will be competing at Augusta National Golf Club on a Sunday next April.

No, Coastal Carolina alumnus and World No. 3 Dustin Johnson didn’t move back to the Grand Strand.

Instead, Gavin Hutchinson, 11, has qualified for the finals of the 2019-20 Drive, Chip & Putt Championship, which will be held on April 5, the Sunday before the Masters Tournament is contested on the famed course in Augusta, Ga.

Gavin, the youngest son of Indigo Creek Golf Club partner Chuck Hutchinson, won the boys age 12-13 division of a regional qualifier at TPC Sawgrass in Ponte Vedra Beach, Fla., on Saturday. His score of 125 points defeated 11 other competitors and was nine more than the division runner-up.

He is the first junior from the Grand Strand to qualify or the finals in the six years of the competition.

There are 10 regionals, so there will be 10 finalists in each division at Augusta National.

Gavin said he plans to win the trophy at Augusta, but as his father pointed out, “He’s already won,” Chuck said. “It was a super accomplishment just to make it to TPC. Somebody asked today if he thinks he can win. To go to Augusta is a win.”

Golf Channel interviewed Gavin after his win Saturday and the interview aired on the network’s Morning Drive show Monday morning. “That was pretty cool, pretty exciting,” Gavin said.

Gavin has participated all six years of the Drive, Chip and Putt competition, which is a joint effort of the United States Golf Association (USGA), Masters Tournament and PGA of America that is free to enter.

The competition is determined by the aggregate score of three drives, three chips and three putts, with a maximum of 75 points in each category. Gavin got 43 points in driving, 22 points in chipping and 60 points in putting.

Drives must land within a grid that is 40 yards wide to garner points, with more points awarded for longer distances. Chip shots are between 10 and 15 yards and points are awarded for proximity to the hole in increments of 2 feet, and putts of 6, 15 and 30 feet garner points on proximity to the cup in increments of 1 foot.

There were 310 local qualifying sites, 61 sub-regional and 10 regional sites this year.

Gavin got through both a local qualifier on July 9 at Legends Golf Resort and Sub-regional qualifier Aug. 24 at Fort Jackson Golf Club in Columbia without winning.

He finished third at Legends, where the top three advanced, and second at Fort Jackson, where two advanced.

But he needed to win Saturday, and by the time he got to the final putting competition he figured he needed more than 50 points to advance to the finals. “I felt that would need to be the number and I got 60 points,” Gavin said.

He finished it off by nestling his final 30-foot putt within a foot of the cup for 20 points after making a 6-foot putt for 25 points and getting a 15-foot putt within 2 feet for 15 points.

Chipping had been his strength through earlier qualifying rounds, as Gavin won his division’s chipping competition at Fort Jackson and was second at Legends.

He won a DCP gold medal for the overall win at TPC Sawgrass, earned silver medals for finishing second in the driving and putting categories, and finished sixth in chipping.

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Gavin Hutchinson addresses the ball Saturday before making a 6-foot putt en route to winning a Drive, Chip and Putt Championship regional at TPC Sawgrass in Ponte Vedra Beach, Fla. Eileen Hutchinson For The Sun News

Divisions are based on the age a participant will be at the finals next April, and juniors who will be between 7 and 15 were eligible to participate this year. Gavin turns 12 on Dec. 21.

His older brothers Grant, 16, a junior at Socastee High, and Chap, 18, a freshman in the PGA Golf Management Program at Coastal Carolina, also participated in the DCP each year until they aged out of the event.

“I didn’t think I’d get past Fort Jackson honestly because my brothers have never and I didn’t think I would either,” Gavin said. “It’s been really hard work. I really have been working hard on my driving. I’d go out and hit like three buckets [of balls] just with my driving.”

Grant, who was with Gavin at TPC Sawgrass on Saturday, missed advancing to a regional by 13 points. “They’ve each made it a little bit further, which is pretty cool,” Chuck said.

Gavin had a second highlight at TPC Sawgrass. He played the course, which annually hosts the PGA Tour’s Players Championship, with his father on the eve of the competition and made a birdie on the famed island-green par-3 17th hole, on which he hit a pitching wedge from 90 yards.

At the finals, Gavin will receive a DCP logoed golf shirt, cap and bag tag, and more importantly he’ll receive tickets to the Masters Monday practice round for his immediate family, so the Hutchinsons will spend a couple days at Augusta National.

Madison Messimer of Myrtle Beach also reached the regional and finished fifth out of 12 competitors in the girls 12-13 division with 121 points, which was 24 shy of the winner.

Twin tales

Twin brothers Luke and Jack Boldt of Bolivia, N.C., and The First Tee of Coastal Carolinas in Brunswick County were among 78 First Tee juniors selected to participate in this past weekend’s Pure Insurance Championship Impacting The First Tee on the Champions Tour.

The $2.1 million Champions Tour tournament featured a pro-am and pro-junior format, with a Champions Tour member, two amateurs and a First Tee junior in each foursome.

The top 23 pro-junior teams qualified for Sunday’s final round, and Luke and partner Jeff Maggert made the cut and finished in a tie for 20th at 12-under 64-68-71–203.

Jack and partner Scott McCarron missed cut to the low 23 teams after two rounds by one shot at 9-under 64-70–134.

The 17-year-old twins who attend South Brunswick High have overcome serious injuries from a car crash two years ago to improve each of their handicap indexes below 5.0.

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Luke (left) and Jack Boldt were seriously injured two years ago in a car crash that killed their paternal grandparents. They represented The First Tee of Coastal Carolinas this past week in the Champions Tour’s Pure Insurance Championship Impacting The First Tee at Pebble Beach Golf Links in California. Alan Blondin ablondin@thesunnews.com
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Alan Blondin covers golf, Coastal Carolina athletics and numerous other sports-related topics that warrant coverage. Well-versed in all things Myrtle Beach, Horry County and the Grand Strand, the Northeastern University journalism school valedictorian has been a sports reporter at The Sun News since 1993, earning eight top-10 Associated Press Sports Editors national writing awards and 18 top-three S.C. Press Association writing awards since 2007.
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