Not taking chances, his father, Paul Meyer, also was decked out in Masters clothing.
Meyer has taken his son to the Masters 10 times, every year since he was 5 years old. It will be different hitting shots on Augusta National instead of walking it, as he will find out if he can win the 14-15 age group at a regional qualifier Sept. 12 at the TPC Sawgrass.
“It would be like a dream,” Tucker Meyer said, after winning his age group at the Hall of Fame, thanks in large part to a chip he holed during one of three attempts from 30 feet.
It’s that dream -- hitting shots at Augusta National -- that was the prime motivation for 120 kids between 7-15 years old who were competing in four age groups for both boys and girls. The top two in the 7-9, 10-11, 12-13 and 14-15 age groups will be at the home of The Players in two weeks for the final chance to get to Augusta for the national finals on April 3, 2016, four days before the first round of the Masters Tournament.
“I like the opportunity to go onto something bigger,” said Amelia Williams of Gainesville, who finished second in the girls 12-13 age group.
And does it get any bigger than Augusta National?
“No,” she said. “That will be the best if I can make it.”
“All I want to do is hit a shot off No. 1,” said Lisa Colee of Deland, the girls 12-13 winner, of the iconic start to Augusta National.
It only gets tougher at the TPC Sawgrass and nine other regional qualifiers around the country. Instead of needing to finish in the top two to advance, only the winner in each division will get to Augusta, for a total of 80 juniors who will play for the national championship.
“It’s much harder with each step,” said Steve Morris, director of tournament operations for the North Florida Section of the PGA, who operated the local and sub-regional qualifiers. “When you get to the regionals, you can’t miss a shot. The kids at that level are that good.”
The skills tests are simple:
■ In the driving portion, each player gets three attempts. They get one point for 25 yards, one for 50, one for 75 and one for 100. After that one point is awarded for each 10 yards, to a max of 300 yards. All of the drives are required to be within a 50-yard grid.
■ Players get three chips from 15 yards, with points awarded the closer the ball comes to rest to the hole. Twenty-five points are awarded for a hole-out.
■ Players attempt putts from 6, 15 and 30 feet. Like the chipping, points are given for coming closer to the hole.
Morris said that after running 12 qualifiers this summer, he can see an overall improvement in two of the three skills, chipping and putting.
“I think they’re coming into these competitions sharper all the time around the greens,” he said. “They’ve taken this to heart and understand that just like in actual golf, two-thirds, if not more, is about the short game. They also understand that chipping might be the most important part. The good players can all drive and putting. Chipping is what wins this at each level.”
Morris wasn’t wrong about the Hall of Fame sub-regional. Six of the eight division winners were either first or second in chipping and five were first or second in putting. Only three division winners finished among the top-two in driving.
Nolan Harper of St. Augustine, playing in the boys 10-11 division, was a great example. He tied for 10th in driving, but holed one putt and lagged two to less than 1 foot; then hit all three of his chips to within 2 feet or less of the hole.
Other area qualifiers were Andrew Davis of Fleming Island, who finished second to Harper; and Alyzabeth Morgan, who finished second in the girls 7-9 divisions. Harper, Davis and Morgan will be attempting to become the first First Coast juniors to reach the national finals.
“It’s a tremendous experience for a kid,” Morris said. “The club treats them like kings and queens.”
Garry Smits: (904) 359-4362
Qualifiers for regional, Sept. 12, at TPC Sawgrass
7-9: 1. Maggie Portash, Eustis; 2. Alyzabeth Morgan, Orange Park.
10-11: 1. Mariane Johnson, Gulf Breeze; 2. Alexandra Gazzoli, Palm Coast.
12-13: 1. Lisa Colee, DeLand; 2. Amelia Williams, Gainesville.
14-15: 1. Lauren Miller, Niceville; 2. Mary Elise Schultz, Pace.
7-9: 1. Emory Ezzell, Gainesville; 2. Taylor Galavis, Gainesville.
10-11: 1. Nolan Harper, St. Augustine; 2. Andrew Davis, Fleming Island.
12-13: 1. Michael Wu, Gainesville; 2. Nicholas Gabrecik, Trinity.
14-15: 1. Tucker Meyer, Evans, Ga.; 2. Johnny Wright, Orlando.