Cleveland Middle School eighth-grader Rheagan Hall will be up early Sunday morning, but it won’t be to load her muzzle loader and wait on a trophy deer to walk into her sights. Instead, Hall will have her sights set on the championship of the inaugural National Drive, Chip and Putt contest at Augusta National.
The Drive, Chip and Putt competition is the first ever PGA and USGA-affiliated event including female golfers to be held on the hallowed grounds of Augusta National.
Hall made it to Nationals as one of the contestants who worked their way through local qualifying and regional competitions. More than 25,000 hopefuls entered the competition, but only 11 in her age group, and 88 contestants overall, will be in Augusta Sunday morning.
The championship will be shown live on the Golf Channel beginning at 8 a.m.
“I’m excited. I’m not nervous, I’m very excited. It takes a lot for me to get nervous. I’m just looking at this as another golf tournament for me, nothing more,” said the sanguine Cleveland Middle School Lady Raider.
Hall plans to approach Sunday’s event in the same manner as any tournament she enters, in a take-care-of business manner. Not knowing her competition will not affect her plans to play her game in what she more or less considers a competition with herself.
“I’ve never met a single one of them,” she said. The only thing she knows for sure about the other competitors is the fact only one has bested her in the competition.
“Only one girl has scored higher than me. So that just makes me want to work even harder. I just think, “Well, she beat you that round, but you can beat her where it really counts, in the Nationals.” I’m looking at them as someone that if I take care of business, I know I will do well.”
With a full schedule of competitive golf with CMS, Rheagan stepped up her training for this event in an effort to sharpen her already considerable skills on the links, including some work with weights.
My dad has made me start working out, and it is killing me. I cannot stand it, but I know it’s for the better,” she admitted through a grin. “I’ve gained at least 25 yards, which is really good.”
A consistent regimen had helped keep Rheagan sharp and fined tuned for the championship.
“I usually start off chipping and putting for an hour and 15 minutes, then I hit balls for 30 or 40 minutes. I just chip and putt and play up and down with that before we leave,” she said.
“I’m very consistent with my driver, so that hasn’t really been that big. My chipping and putting, I have done that for at least two and a half hours every day the past two weeks. I don’t struggle there, but it’s not as strong as my driver.”
Competition is nothing new to Rheagan, who bested her father Mack in a round of golf for just the second time this week. The only difference will be, Sunday’s competition will be against 10 of the best the game of golf has to offer on a national stage at the World Mecca of golf.
But Ball said she isn’t worried about any of that. Her biggest concern is driving, chipping and putting the ball in the way she is most capable of doing.
“I’m playing with some of the best girls in the nation in the 11-year-old age division. I’m expecting, for myself, to do very well because I have been practicing a lot,” she said.
“I just expect myself to take care of business and show them I can play golf.”