WAXHAW – Last April on the Sunday before the start of the 81st Masters Tournament, Waxhaw resident Cindy Song turned on the Golf Channel to watch a little golf, and to see what might have been.
Back in spring 2016, Song signed up to compete in the national Drive, Chip and Putt Championships, which is a combined effort by the Masters Tournament, United States Golf Association and PGA of America to promote youth golf. The DCP is for boys and girls golfers ages 7-15 and the finals are held each year before the Masters at Augusta National.
Song, 13, made the first step a year ago by advancing out of the local regional but her dreams of going to Augusta National ended at the sub-regional level.
“I watched every second of it,” Song said of last year’s DCP finals competition at the Masters. “Every player that participated in that tournament, they all inspired me to join DCP this year and qualify to play at Augusta National this year.”
Song, however, won’t be watching the event this year on television. She will be living her dream of going to the Masters Tournament instead.
Song, who started playing golf three years ago and currently carries a 2-handicap, will compete against nine other girls’ golfers in the 12-13-year old division at the Drive, Chip and Putt Championships on April 1 at Augusta National.
Song’s road to the Master’s was a long and difficult one.
Local qualifying began in May and ended in July at more than 260 golf courses across the country. The top three finishers at each site in each of the four age groups in the separate boys’ and girls’ divisions advanced to one of 50 sub-regional qualifiers. The top two sub-regional finishers then advanced to one of 10 regional qualifiers. The winner of the regional then advanced to the National Finals.
Song won the local qualifier at Willow Creek Golf Course in Greer, S.C. by 31 points. She followed that up by winning the sub-regional at Fort Jackson (S.C.) Golf Club by 23 points. Song then advanced to the national finals by winning the regional at Pinehurst by 12 points back in September.
Song drained a long putt at Pinehurst to punch her ticket to the national finals.
“There was a lot of pressure at Pinehurst because only one player qualified to go to Augusta,” Song said. “I made the 30-foot putt and before that I was in second place.”
After the DCP completion on April 1, Song and her family will get to watch some of the Masters Tournament.
“I’m really looking forward to it,” Song said. “I have never been there (Masters), so I’m excited about that.”
Song said her driver was her best club during the DCP competitions and the club she trusts the most on the course. Song’s best 9-hole score is a 3-under 32 and her best 18-hole score is a 5-under 67.
“I have done really well on my drives,” Song said. “It is the strongest part of my game. I play almost every day and I am practicing a lot to prepare for April. I am working a lot on the three skills.”
Advancing to the DCP championship wasn’t the only major accomplishment that Song achieved last year. Back in August, Song won the United States Kids Golf World Championship, which was also contested at Pinehurst.
Song fired a 7-under par 68-72-69 209 to win the prestigious event by one stroke. Song carded a birdie on the last hole to avoid a playoff.
Song said her ultimate goal is to play on the LPGA Tour.
“I want to go to college and play golf and then I hope to play professional golf,” Song said.
Song is tutored by award-winning golf professional Dana Rader at the Ballantyne Golf Academy. Rader said Song is a complete player.
“She has the mind for the game,” Rader said. “She is a competitor and she doesn’t let competition scare her. She always has the same calm demeanor. The strength of her game is her driver. She hits it a long way and I think she will continue to hit it a long way. She works at it.”