By Larry Fine
AUGUSTA, Georgia (Reuters) - Augusta National, the spiritual home of U.S. golf, will be crowning junior champions of a new skills competition that will culminate at the permanent home of the Masters, it was announced on Monday.
The finals of a nationwide Drive, Chip & Putt Championship for boys and girls between the ages of 7 and 15 is aimed at helping grow interest in golf. It will be held on the Sunday before the Masters and be broadcast on Golf Channel.
"Imagine the incredible excitement these 88 finalists (in four age categories) will experience as they come to the site of the Masters to compete," said Augusta National chairman Billy Payne, who made the announcement in conjunction with the U.S. Golf Association (USGA) and the PGA of America.
"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...discover this wonderful, wonderful game."
USGA president Glen Nager said he thought it was fitting for Augusta National to host the finals.
"In establishing this temple for the game some 80 years ago, Bobby Jones saw fit to create more than simply a landscape on which to play golf," Nager said.
"He imbued this club with a powerful dignity and reverence for those that compete simply for the love of the game. That's what amateur golf is."
The PGA of America, comprised of the teaching professionals across the United States, will oversee the logistics of the competition which can be entered by visiting the website www.drivechipandputt.com.