In August, Mt. Laurel resident and Parkway Elementary School fourth grader Angelina Tolentino visited the historic Augusta National Golf Club to compete in the National Drive, Chip and Putt competition.
Getting the chance to compete at Augusta is something few golfers get to do in a lifetime. Angelina got to play at Augusta at the age of 9.
Angelina’s supreme golf skills allowed her to qualify for the National Drive, Chip and Putt competition, taking place during the weekend of April 2.
Angelina began golfing at the age of 5. She quickly picked up on the basics of the game and, within a few years, was on the U.S. Kids Golf Tour in the Philadelphia area, and even competed in the U.S. Kids 8-year-old World Championship in 2015, finishing tied for 15th place.
The National Drive, Chip and Putt competition is different than a regular round of golf. The competition is a skills test where competitors are graded based on their ability to drive, chip and putt. Scoring for the driving part of the competition is based on how far the ball goes combined with keeping the ball on the fairway. In the chipping and putting portions, golfers take three shots and are scored based on how close the ball lands to the hole.
Fortunately, Angelina’s skills fit the competition perfectly.
“I am really good at chipping,” she said. “I’m also good at driving.”
To qualify for nationals, golfers must win at the local and regional levels first. This was no problem for Angelina.
“There was a local qualifier at Sunnybrook Golf Club (in Plymouth Meeting, Pa.),” Angelina said. “At the local tournament I won that. After that was regionals at Congressional Golf Club, (Bethesda, Md.). I won that.”
At the national competition, Angelina finished in seventh place in the girls’ 7 to 9 year old division. She scored particularly high in chipping, finishing with the second-highest score among her competitors.
However, the competition was only part of the experience of Augusta. Angelina talked excitedly of being able to see the historic golf course in person and meeting professional golfers Rickie Fowler and Jason Day.
“It was exciting to see Augusta National Golf Club,” Angelina said. “It was a beautiful course.”
Angelina puts in a lot of hard work to continue improving her skills. She attends Lou Guzzi Golf Academy in Pennsylvania. “Golf Magazine” has previously named Guzzi one of the top golf teachers in the United States. She also spends a lot of time practicing in her hometown at Ramblewood Country Club.
“She practices on the course three hours a day for five days,” her father Vincent said. “She puts in time at the Golf Performance Institute in Mt. Laurel. She has an instructor there.”
“Of course, she has to have time to do her homework,” Vincent added. “Homework comes first.”
Angelina will be busy again this summer as she continues to compete in a variety of U.S. Kids golf tournaments. She also hopes to return to Augusta next year as a 10-year-old.
“She wants to try to qualify again for the drive, chip and putt for 2017,” Vincent said.
Angelina doesn’t plan on stopping at U.S. Kids events and youth competitions. She has a much larger goal in mind.
“I want to be a pro golfer when I grow up,” she said.