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Oct 2, 2018 7:31 AMPublication: The East Hampton Press & The Southampton Press

Springs Resident James Bradley Wins Regional Qualifier In Drive, Putt And Chip; Will Head To Augusta This April

James Bradley leaps to try and see where the hole is off the first tee at Westhampton Country Club on September 26. DREW BUDD
Oct 2, 2018 10:16 AM

About three years ago, James Bradley was watching the National Finals of the Drive, Chip and Putt competition on television with his father, Scott. Airing every Sunday prior to the Masters at Augusta National Golf Club in Georgia, the Bradleys thought it would be cool to one day compete in the competition, so James signed up.

It took three years, but Bradley, now 12 years old, has finally made it. The Springs resident qualified for Nationals of the Drive, Chip and Putt competition after completing three rounds of qualifiers this past summer. On April 7, 2019, Bradley will be on national television on the Golf Channel competing for a national title in his age group.

Bradley said his experience the past two years certainly helped him this year.

“The main goal over the summer was just to do well and make it to Augusta,” he said. “No matter what happens there I’m just so glad that I’m going. It’s going to be a great experience. We’ll be able to see all of the players inside of the ropes.”

A joint initiative founded in 2013 by the Masters Tournament, United States Golf Association and The PGA of America, Drive, Chip and Putt is a free nationwide junior golf development competition aimed at growing the game by focusing on the three fundamental skills employed in golf. It provides aspiring junior golfers an opportunity to play with their peers in qualifiers around the country. Participants who advance through local, sub-regional and regional qualifying in each age/gender category earn a place in the National Finals, which is conducted at Augusta National Golf Club the Sunday before the Masters Tournament and is broadcast live by Golf Channel.

Competing in the 12-to-13-year-old age group, Bradley’s first qualifier this year was at Harbor Links Golf Club in Port Washington on July 6. The top three in each age group advanced to the sub-regional qualifier—Bradley placed second with 122 points. He then won the sub-regional qualifier at Bethpage Black on August 16 with 142 points, 16 points ahead of the second-place finisher, and then won the regional qualifier at Winged Foot Golf Club in Mamaroneck on September 23 with 139 points with a 12-point lead.

Participants accumulate points in the drive by landing a shot on a 40-yard wide fairway. The longer the shot the more points are scored. A 300-foot plus drive would garner the max of 25 points and works its way down in 10-yard increments.

In the chip portion, participants have three 10-to-15-yard shots at the scoring hole. All shots are measured from the center of the hole with clearly marked scoring rings. A hole-in-one lands the max of 25 points. A ball finishing two inches or nearer the hole scores 20 points and there is a point system that is followed for everything farther away from the hole.

Each participant has one putt attempt from each distance of 6 feet, 15 feet and 30 feet. Like the chip, shots are measured from the center of the hole with clearly marked scoring rings and a hole-in-one is 25 points, a ball finished one inch or nearer to the hole is 20 points, etc.

“The regional qualifier I was in, the greens were really fast, so it was probably one of the hardest qualifiers at Winged Foot,” Bradley explained. “I made the first six-footer. I put the 15-footer to about five inches before holing it, and then I got the 30-footer to max points but didn’t hole it.”

Bradley is in his first year of playing varsity golf for East Hampton, along with eighth-graders J.P. Amaden and Trevor Stachecki. He admits playing with and against older players is difficult.

“It’s difficult because we have to play the back tees and we’re really small—J.P. is just as small as I am, same with Trevor. It’s a big learning experience for all of us. J.P. is in his second year on the team, but he had the same struggles that I’m having now. Playing with the older kids, it’s just difficult because in the tournaments that I play in over the summer I play with 12 to 14 year olds.”

Playing with some of the top golfers in the county in seniors, Turner Foster and Nate Wright definitely helps, he said. “They’re always telling us about the different courses on the bus, giving us tips,” he said. “They always tell us to play the course smart. We don’t want to play like dumb golf, don’t go to greens when we don’t have to, so they help out a lot.”

Bradley considers Montauk Downs his home course and he was working with the head pro there, Kevin Smith, for the past three years or so. Smith said he was not surprised one bit that Bradley reached the National Finals of the Drive, Chip and Putt, mainly due to his strong work ethic at such a young age.

“He certainly is very dedicated to what he’s trying to get accomplished. He’s always out practicing,” he said. “He’s a great young man in the fact that he’s very respectful of his peers, and adults, and he’s certainly been a great ambassador to the game. He represents Montauk Downs very well.

“It’s a great accomplishment for him, his family and Montauk Downs,” Smith added.

Smith also said that he thinks his young protege has what it takes to win the national title.

“I think it’s very possible. He has the ability to focus and the ability to perform when necessary,” he said. “He certainly has goals in mind, to win the national title but his other goal is to win the Masters down the road. He seems to be focused on painting certain results and I believe that he’ll get there.”

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