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Sam Kodak, Braden Miller ready for their Drive, Chip and Putt moments at Augusta

By Greg Hardwig
Published on

Sam Kodak has had his moment at Augusta National Golf Club before. Braden Miller has not.

But both Naples youngsters will be sharing a special one on Sunday morning in the fourth Drive, Chip and Putt Finals at the historic site of the Masters tournament.

Kodak, 13, is a veteran if there is such a thing. He made it to the finals in the event's first year in 2014 when he was 10. But he's failed to make it back since after the event's popularity boomed and more and more kids signed up and additional qualifying rounds were added.

MORE: Full coverage, golfer profiles from Drive, Chip and Putt Championship

"Not many kids get to go watch the Masters," Kodak said Wednesday at a send-off party for him at The Country Club of Naples. "I'm just grateful that I get to play at Augusta. My goal this year is to hopefully bring home a trophy. I think it's a really big accomplishment (to get back)."

Like all of the 80 finalists, Miller, 10, has had a lot of time to think about the finals. Qualifying finished in September.

"It's been seven months," he said. "I couldn't wait. I wish it was just a week. But it's going to be so exciting, seeing all of the players and getting on that course."

Miller, who will be in the next-to-last set of groupings, is hoping to meet Rickie Fowler.

"I'm looking forward to the practice day on Saturday because I'm hoping players will show up and I get to see the other players that I'm competing against and say hi to them and good luck," Miller said.

Kodak didn't play well back in 2014, but he made quite a few memories, snapping pictures with Adam Scott, Billy Horschel, Peter Jacobsen, chairman Billy Payne and others during the three days that included a banquet the night before the competition and tickets to the Monday practice rounds.

This time, he hopes he's prepared to make his own memory.

"After I didn't make it back once, I tried the next year and I didn't make it back, so I was really just trying to prove to myself that I was better than that," said Kodak, who is set to start at 8:30 a.m. "This time I definitely will have so much of a different perspective on things. I definitely feel like I've learned so much from the last time that I'm just going to have an edge."

"We just take it all in," Sam's father Chadd said. "That's what I told him. but he really wants to win it. ... He knows it's a really great experience no matter what."

It all comes down to six shots -- two drives, two chips and two putts. There are 10 finalists in each age division, with the winner of each skill getting 10 points. There are four divisions for boys and four for girls -- ages 8-9, 10-11, 12-13 and 14-15.

"Stay patient," Kodak said when asked a key. "Once you hit one that's not what you want, just try to make it up somehow."

"You've got to put it all together in one day to win it," Chadd Kodak said.

For the Millers, Braden's qualifying turned the Augusta trip into something even more special. His grandparents are celebrating a 70th birthday by going to the Masters.

"It's a special treat for each other," said Jason Miller, a club professional at Copperleaf Golf Club in Bonita Springs. "When Braden qualified last September, it brought on a new reason and meaning to go."

Jason Miller went with his father to the Masters for a practice round back in 2007.

"This will be a longer stay and a different stay," he said.

"It means a lot," Braden Miller said. "It's always better to have others than just be by yourself."

Kodak also will have his dad, mom Amy, brother Thomas and sister Eliza there, plus a few of the fellow finalists he knows. And Quail Creek instructor Spencer Graham has students Alexa Pano and Gianna Clemente who have been training at the club who are finalists.

"We're just blessed to go for the second time," Chadd Kodak said. "For the whole family to be able to get in there and be able to experience it as a family, it's just incredible."

It's nice to have Miller there, too.

"What are the odds of having people from the same city going to Augusta?" he said.

No matter what happens Sunday, the experience itself and getting to watch the pros play Monday is something to remember. Eating in the clubhouse is a special treat, and also getting to go into the exclusive pro shop to buy memorabilia.

"I just hope I get to see more players than I did last time," Kodak said. "The golf course is so much different than what you see on TV."

This article is written by Greg Hardwig from Naples Daily News, Fla. and was legally licensed via the Tribune Content Agency through the NewsCred publisher network. Please direct all licensing questions to legal@newscred.com.

 

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