Briarwood Elementary student J.P. Hepler to compete in national Drive, Chip & Putt finals at Augusta

Nine-year-old J.P. Kinney will be heading to Augusta next spring for the finals of the Drive, Chip & Putt competition.
Nine-year-old J.P. Hepler will be heading to Augusta next spring for the finals of the Drive, Chip & Putt competition.

Ask any American golfer about his or her dreams, and there’s a good chance that stepping onto the green on Sunday at Augusta National Golf Club in Georgia is pretty high on that list.

Next April, Briarwood Elementary fourth grader J.P. Hepler will get to live that dream.

By winning the regional competition of the PGA’s annual Drive, Chip & Putt competition at Hazeltine National Golf Club in Chaska, Minn., last weekend, Hepler earned the right to face off against the winners of finals held at six other courses across the country next spring. The finals are held the Sunday before the Masters tournament begins.

Started in 2014 and open to golfers aged 7 to 15, the competition has three skills tests. Players get points for how far they can drive the ball and how close to the hole they can chip and putt.

Hepler, who plays at Milburn Country Club locally, fended off his fellow competitors in the 10-11 year old division. Because he’d already finished his rounds before some of the others in his age group, Helper and his family had to watch and wait to see how the other players would fare. When the final scores were tallied though, Hepler had bested the second place finisher by 12 points

“I was kind of too shocked for words then,” he said.

To get to the regional qualifier, Hepler had to be among the top finishers in a local and a sub-regional event.

As for the reaction of his Briarwood classmates?

“Some of them didn’t know what golf was,” he said. “But I think they were still happy for me.”

Hepler’s father Jay said J.P.’s participation in the U.S. Kids Tour has helped him hone his skills at so young an age.

“It’s a great way for kids to get into the game,” Jay said.

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