Chuck Miller gets too nervous to watch. But he’s glad his daughter Mary Miller doesn’t seem to get rattled when she has a golf club in her grip.
Miller finished second overall in the Girls 7-9 competition at Sunday’s Drive, Chip and Putt National Finals at Augusta National Golf Club. The 9-year-old Miller, who resides on Skidaway Island, didn’t seem overwhelmed by the moment.
“It was out of this world watching her. I’m a nervous wreck inside and she’s just calm,” Miller’s father said.
“It was very fun and exciting,” Miller said.
Miller said she started to think about the event once she won her regional at TPC Sawgress in Ponte Vedra Beach, Fla., where she won by 11 points and was medalist in driving.
On Sunday, Miller earned 23.5 points to get second. She hit her first drive 152 yards for third best in her group to earn eight points. She then picked up 6.5 points on chipping and finally won nine points when she finished second on her putts. Emerson Blair from West Point, Miss., won with 24 points.
Miller’s father said the family drove up from Savannah on Saturday and will attend Monday’s practice round. This was Miller’s first trip to Augusta National.
“It was very beautiful,” she said.
Her father said the course surpassed every expectation.
“This trip has been out of this world,” he said. “Everything they advertise about it is all true and beyond.”
By Elmo Weeks
Mary Miller doesn’t really know that much about the Masters, but she’s about to get a glimpse of Augusta National Golf Club that few people ever see.
Miller, a 9-year-old third-grader at Savannah Christian Preparatory School, qualified for the national finals of the Drive, Chip & Putt Championship on Sunday at Augusta National. The driving competition takes place on the practice range, chipping is also on the practice range and the putting competition takes place on the famed 18th green.
Miller isn’t the only Drive, Chip & Putt competitor with local ties. Sophia Burnett, 13, of Bluffton, S.C., will play in the 12-13 age group, and Bluffton’s Sophie Guo will compete in the 14-15 age group.
The Drive, Chip & Putt is a joint effort by the Masters, the United States Golf Association and the PGA of America introduced in 2013 to promote the development of junior golf. Free local, sectional and regional qualifiers for golfers ages 7-15 take place across the country each summer, and the ultimate prize is qualifying for the national finals played the following year at Augusta National on the Sunday before the Masters tournament.
The competition will be televised live on the Golf Channel beginning at 8 a.m. Sunday.
Miller is a golf prodigy who has won US Kids Golf tournaments and qualified in January for the US Kids Golf World Championship that will be played August in Pinehurst, N.C. Even with all of her success on the golf course, she and her family know the Drive, Chip & Putt Championship will be a unique experience.
“I’m mostly calm but a little more excited,” said Miller, who qualified for the national finals in the 7-9 age category in September at TPC Sawgrass in Ponte Vedra Beach, Fla. “I’m really more excited than nervous. If you have a bad day, you don’t worry about it, and if you hit a bad shot, you brush it off.”
After she qualified, Miller has spent the last few months practicing all three phases and working on her pre-shot routine with some of the teaching professionals at The Landings Club. Before each shot, she draws a mental picture of the shot she wants and uses her club to trace a line to the target.
This week, she watched reruns of the 2015 Drive, Chip & Putt national finals on the Golf Channel with her father, Chuck Miller. He isn’t ashamed to admit he cried when his daughter qualified for the national finals because her accomplishment will enable him to achieve a lifelong dream of entering Augusta National by driving down Magnolia Lane.
“I told her she’s already won by getting (to the national finals),” Chuck Miller said. “Whatever happens now happens because she has worked so hard for this. Golf has kind of been a natural fit for her, and so far in everything she’s done, she hasn’t shown any nerves.”
The first time Mary Miller played in a US Kids Golf tournament, she won the nine-hole event with a score of even-par 36. She won a long-drive competition at Georgia State Golf Association junior event by hitting her tee shot 197 yards, and she finished third at the 11-under Girls Georgia State championship last year.
Earlier this year, The Landings Women’s Golf Association made Mary Miller an honorary member, and she delivered a speech during the organization’s monthly meeting. She is a young woman of few words who doesn’t watch a lot of golf on television, and her father said this experience has helped his daughter be more open and expressive.
“I am thoughtful, hard-working and focused on my goals,” Miller told the Drive, Chip & Putt Championship organizers when asked to describe herself. “When I set my mind on something, I work hard to achieve it. I’m shy when meeting new people, but once I get to know someone, I’m funny and talkative.”