Local youth to compete at Augusta National Golf Club

submitted photo • From left, Sam Udovich, Isabella McCauley and Andrew Ramos are three young golfers from the metro area who met through the sport and often practice together. This year all three qualified for the National Finals held Sunday, April 1, at the Augusta National Golf Club in Augusta, Georgia.

submitted photo • Vunnisa Vu will be competing in the Drive, Chip and Putt National Finals for the first time Sunday, April 1. She also plans to try out for the Roseville Area High School golf team this spring.

A group of local student golfers has qualified to compete at the Drive, Chip and Putt National Finals on Sunday, April 1, in Augusta, Georgia. 

Although Sam Udovich, Andrew Ramos, Vunnisa Vu and Isabella McCauley all live in different communities around the metro area, all four practice through the winter at Midwest Golf Dome in Maplewood.

Drive, Chip and Putt, which was founded by the Masters Tournament, the United States Golf Association and the PGA of America, is a competition for athletes ages 7-15, focusing on the three fundamental skills of golf. 

Participants from all over the country compete in local, sub-regional and regional qualifying events in their respective age and gender categories. The athletes who qualify for the national finals are flown out for free to Augusta National Golf Club to compete the Sunday before the Masters Tournament, a professional golf championship that takes place on the same course.

“We’re very honored to get to walk the hallowed grounds of Augusta,” says Udovich’s father, Michael. “If you are a golf fan, Augusta is the most special place on Earth.”


Sam Udovich

Udovich says he’s been golfing almost as long as he’s been walking. He estimated he was about a year and a half when he was first acquainted with the sport. Now, the Inver Grove Heights resident is 11 years old.

This is Udovich’s second time qualifying for the national finals, having also done so two years ago, and he said he feels excited to be going back again this year.

“I feel like I am going to do good because I’ve been practicing really hard lately,” Udovich says.

His best score so far was 62 on a par-72 course, and Udovich says he feels most confident with his driving skills.

“My main goal is [becoming] pro when I’m older, but I’d like to be in Division 1 golf and the Junior Ryder Cup team,” he says.


Andrew Ramos

Ramos, a 12-year-old from Blaine, says his introduction to golf began when his dad taught him to putt at about 4 years old. His best score so far has been -3 on a nine-hole course.

When asked what his strongest skill is between driving, chipping and putting, Ramos says “I like all three,” adding that if he had to pick, putting is probably his best skill, since he has been doing it the longest and has often worked on that skill with his dad.

Ramos has participated in the Drive, Chip and Putt competition the last two years, but this is his first time going to the national finals. 

He says this year is particularly exciting for him as three of his friends — Udovich, McCauley and Patmon Malcom, Jr. of Alpharetta, Georgia — have also qualified for the finals, and will be golfing in Augusta at the same time. 

Ramos says his ultimate goal is to one day go pro and have his dad and his younger brother caddy for him.


Vunnisa Vu

Vu admits she took to golf pretty quickly. The now 13-year-old began playing only a few years ago when she was about 10 or 11 years old.

Vu mostly golfs at Goodrich Golf Course in her hometown of Maplewood, but hopes to soon begin golfing for the Roseville Raiders. Although she currently attends Roseville Area Middle School, she plans to try out for the Roseville Area High School team this spring.

The lowest score she has achieved so far was an 80, and Vu says driving is her strongest skill.

“This is my second year doing the Drive, Chip and Putt [competition],” Vu says, adding that last year she made it to the regional competition, but this will be her first year competing in the national finals.

Although she has achieved much already, Vu says she hopes one day to go pro.


Isabella McCauley

McCauley first started playing golf when she was 6 years old and competed in her first tournament only two years later. Now, the 14-year-old Inver Grove Heights resident plays primarily at West St. Paul’s Southview Country Club where she and Udovich, who often golf together, are both members.

This will be McCauley’s second time competing at the national finals in Augusta, having also competed last year taking fifth place. McCauley says she has been practicing to hopefully bring a stronger game this year.

In addition to golfing in tournaments, McCauley has golfed for Simley High School since last year when she competed as a seventh-grader. She plans to play for Simley again this spring as an eighth-grader.

McCauley says her best score so far was 67 on a par-70 course, and her strongest skill is chipping because it is her favorite to practice.

When considering how golf fits into her life, McCauley explains that she wants to keep an eye on the present as much as the future. 

“I think if you ask most people, they want to go pro, and yes that is what I want to do, but I want to take it year by year and just continue to enjoy the process of learning about golf and just enjoying it in general,” she says.

McCauley adds that she is excited for the upcoming competition, and she encourages young people to get started playing golf.

The Drive, Chip and Putt National Finals will air live on the Golf Channel Sunday, April 1, at 7 a.m. Central Standard Time. The competition will also be streamed live at www.drivechipandputt.com/finals/live.


– Aundrea Kinney can be reached at 651-748-7822 or akinney@lillienews.com

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