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Local teen earns shot at Augusta

Baylee Hammericksen could not have been happier as she absorbed the sights and sounds of Augusta National Golf Club in April.

The 14-year-old's father, Jamie, had secured tickets to watch the Masters Tournament's practice rounds and Par 3 contest in Augusta, Georgia.

"It was amazing," recalls Baylee, who is an eighth-grader at St. Mary's. "Me and my dad pet the grass and everything."

Baylee will get to do much more than observe next April. She'll have her clubs out, swinging for a monumental title.

Baylee claimed first place in the Drive, Chip and Putt regional qualifier at The Olympic Club in San Francisco, last Saturday. The victory sealed a berth into the National Finals at Augusta on Sunday, April 2, the eve of the 2017 Masters. Tournament play in the 81st edition of the major begins that Thursday.

"Lo and behold we're coming back," says Jamie. "It's a pretty special opportunity. Tens of thousands of kids enter this thing."

Before making a splash in San Francisco, Baylee earlier won the Drive, Chip and Putt local event at Emerald Valley Golf Club in Creswell, and the subregional at Meriwether National Golf Club in Hillsboro.

The Drive, Chip and Putt Championship, now in its fourth year, was launched by the United States Golf Association, Masters Tournament and the PGA of America.

The event welcomes boys and girls ages 7-15 to participate in separate divisions in four age categories. After the local, subregional and regional contests, the top 80 performers — 40 boys and 40 girls — advance to the finals. Points are awarded for the longest and most accurate drives and closest chip and putt shots.

Enter Baylee, who captured the girls ages 14-15 regional crown with a total score of 144 (44 for drive, 50 for chip and 50 for putt). Haley Wong of Seattle was second (134) and Viveka Kurup of Redwood City, California, was third (117) out of 10.

On Aug. 9 in Hillsboro, Baylee racked up 132 points for first out of 14. In Creswell, she scored 118 points and the top performance out of 11.

Baylee says the drive portion of the contest in San Francisco gave her some valuable mojo. She sent her three attempts 200 yards, 205 yards and finally 206 yards.

"I hit all three drives right down the middle," she says. "That boosted my confidence."

Baylee savored the smell of the ocean and a beautiful view on the chipping green at The Olympic Club, and she performed well there, too.

"I could have chipped there all day," she recalls.

The highlight of the putting was a 30-footer that looked right on target, coming inches short.

All in all, it was a good day for Baylee at The Olympic Club, site of several U.S. Opens.

"To be at such an historically significant course was incredible," says Baylee, who also plays volleyball and basketball.

News of Baylee's success is spreading fast. As Jamie was riding an exercise bike at his gym on Friday morning, he looked up at the television and saw Baylee's name on The Golf Channel's Morning Drive.

"Pretty startling and pretty exciting," he says of the moment.

Adds Baylee: "That put a skip in my step. I was getting ready for school and he said, 'By the way, I saw you on Morning Drive.'"

In addition, Golf Digest deputy editor Ryan Herrington interviewed Jamie for about 30 minutes on Friday and will talk with Baylee over the phone next Wednesday, the family says.

The Hammericksens plan on traveling to the Peach State to root on Baylee.

"It's televised on the Golf Channel and the kids are hitting and the (professional) players are right there," Jamie says. "They take them into the clubhouse, drive them down Magnolia Lane. (The organizers) have done a heck of a job for junior golf."

Reach reporter Dan Jones at 541-776-4499, or email djones@mailtribune.com. Find him online at twitter.com/danjonesmt

Hammericksen