Minnesota Golf Association

Ramos, Udovich Qualify for Drive, Chip & Putt Finals

September 29, 2019

Andrew Ramos was the smallest participant in the Boys 14-15 Division during the Drive, Chip & Putt Regional Qualifier at Interlachen Country Club on Saturday. Barely 5 feet tall and only 93 pounds, he was a foot shorter than some of the boys he was competing against. Despite his disadvantage in size, Ramos achieved the highest score of the day, as he piled up 167 points to win the division -- and earn a trip to Augusta National for the DC&P finals next April.

The 13-year-old from Blaine hits the ball a surprisingly long way for someone whose weight is still in double figures. He averaged between 240 and 250 yards into a 10-mile-per hour wind, which was worth 57 points, the second-best total in his age group. Only Matthew Marsollek of Hudson, Wis., did better, with 59 points. In the second skill, chipping, Ramos and Marsollek tied with 55 points. Marsollek was still ahead at that point, but Ramos outscored Marsollek 55 to 27 in putting and won the age group by 26 points. 

Ramos is used to being the smallest player in a group. He took up golf when he was 2 years old, with a couple of plastic clubs, and he played his first 18-hole round of golf when he was 4. His family has a membership at TPC Twin Cities, but he had to get special dispensation to play the course, because he was below the minimum age requirement. 

This summer, in the Minnesota PGA Boys Junior Championship at Rutgers Bay, he was competing against mostly high school-age boys, quite a few of them recently graduated seniors, and he tied for 10th with a 36-hole score of 148 (75-73). He tied for 20th in the MGA Boys Junior with a 145 (71-74) at Pioneer Creek.   

When he was asked who his favorite player is, Ramos hesitated slightly before answering: "Well, it was Jordan Spieth and Jason Day. But now that Tiger's back, it's Tiger."

The other Minnesota golfer to qualify for the DC&P Finals was Sam Udovich. He won the Boys 12-13 Division. Udovich is a Finals veteran, of sorts. This will be his third trip to Augusta. The first time he was there, in 2016, he finished fifth. When he went back, in 2018, he finished second in the Boys 10-11, losing out by 8 inches on his third and last putt, from 30 feet. (Putting, like chipping, awards 25 points for a putt or chip that is holed. Anything inside of 1 foot is worth 20 points; anything between 1 and 2 feet is worth 15 points, 2 to 3 feet is 10 points, and so on. Anything outside of 5 feet is only 1 point.)

Udovich, a 13-year-old who lives in Inver Grove Heights, is bigger than Ramos, at 5-6 and just over 100 pounds, but he's not that big. Nevertheless, he can pound a driver, and he's remarkably accurate. On Saturday, his first drive went 255 yards and ended up about 6 feet from the center of the grid that was set up on the fairway -- and extended approximately five yards into the rough -- on the first hole at Interlachen. His second was almost identical, 255 yards and roughly 4 feet from the center. The third drive was 245 yards and something like 12 feet from the center of the fairway.

It was an impressive display. 

Udovich has been doing these DC&P qualifiers for six years, and he can't remember he missed the grid, which is 40 yards wide, with one of his drives. 

Those three drives he hit Saturday were worth 59 points. He nearly holed one of his chip shots and had a score of 55 points for that skill. That gave him a lead of 26 points, which was enough to allow him one lapse in putting.

There are three stages of qualifying for the DC&P -- local, sub-regional and regional -- and Udovich had missed his first putt, which is from 6 feet, in six conscutive qualifiers. On Saturday, he finally snapped that streak and made the 6-footer. But then he gunned his 15-footer more than 5 feet past the cup. He got only one point for that; so there was pressure on him for Putt No. 3, the 30-footer. Fortunately, he hit a good one, leaving it between 2 and 3 feet from the hole. That was worth 15 points, giving him 36 for putting, pushing his total for the three skills to 150 points.

Connor Girten got 60 points in both chipping and putting, but he had scored only 22 in driving. Udovich was, therefore, able to hold him off and win by eight points.

Finalists for the DC&P don't actually get to play the course at Augusta National, but that's fine with Udovich. He can't wait to go back, just to take in the aura of Augusta.

"Augusta is a special place," he said. "When you drive down Magnolia Lane on the way in, it's an unbelievable feeling."

Udovich was one of four contestants at the Interlachen Regional whose families have memberships at Southview CC. Briana Simek finished ninth in Girls 10-11 with 67 points, Lauryn Finley took fourth in Girls 12-13 with 100, and Reese McCauley was sixth in Girls 14-15 with 112. Finley and McCauley collected one medal each, Finley for taking third in chipping with 36 points, McCauley for placing third in driving in her division with 41 points. 

Finley, by the way, finished just ahead of Izzi Stricker, the daughter of Steve Stricker, who has won on both the PGA and Champions tours. Izzi Stricker was fifth in Girls 12-13 with 94 points.

Another medal winner from Minnesota was Isa Khan of St. Paul. He won the driving competition in the Boys 7-9 Division with 26 points, and finished fourth overall with 80 points. He would have needed only six more to tie for second. But the Boys 7-9 winner, Mitchell Shroyer of Freeport, Ill., finished 19 ahead of Kahn with 99. 

The unluckiest second-place finisher on Saturday had to be Vunissa Vu. Anyone who's been paying attention to the state high school tournament the last two years will recognize Vu's name. She tied for 14th in Class AAA as a seventh-grader for Roseville in 2018, and she tied for eighth this spring. She qualified last fall for the 2019 DC&P Finals, and she looked like a lock to qualify again at Interlachen in the Girls 14-15 with only putting remaining.

Vu was dominating the proceedings at that point. She had won driving in her group with 53 points, meaning that she was averaging just over 230 yards per drive, and she won chipping, too, with 50 points. That gave her a 30-point lead on Ashleyjen Powell of Appleton, Wis. But Vu didn't make her 6-footer and didn't get her other two putts close enough to score more than 35 points in the final skill. Even then, she would have won with an aggregate of 138 points, if Powell hadn't put up the highest score of the day -- in any event -- with her putting.

Powell earned 70 points -- five points from a perfect score -- with her three attempts on the Interlach practice green. In other words, she made the 6-footer, and the 15-footer and got her 30-footer to stop within a foot of the hole. 

With those 70 points, she propelled her total to 143 points and finished five ahead of Vu.  

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