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Wednesday, April 3, 2019


Not many photographers will lay on the ground in front
of a player hitting a drive... you've got to know,
beyond doubt, that you are safe.
For now the answer is: Pinehurst Championships and Augusta National... and Florida and Texas and other states where he has won other tournaments.....

This week, all the way through Sunday at Augusta National, in Augusta, GA, the site of each year's Masters, will be special for the world of golf, and double special for Elk City and Oklahoma.

For the first time ever, Augusta National is hosting a woman's tournament, and not just “any” women’s tournament, it is tournament for amateur women, not professionals, called, the Augusta Women's Amateur. It will be on TV this week, and the final round is Saturday at the revered grounds.

This is the same club where once upon a time, some women picketed and demonstrated that Augusta, a private club, did not have a woman member.

Eventually, they changed their bylaws, and invited two women to join their membership, one of whom is one of my all time favorites, Condolezza Rice.

Previously, this super-exclusive club, which is open only a few months during the year, and that hosts The Masters, the most watched tournament around the world, had decided that they needed something new to promote amateur golf, and what better way to do so, than first teaming up with the USGA and my fellow professionals of the PGA of America to start at the very roots of amateur golf: the junior group, in this case, kids 7 to 15.

Thus, the “Drive, Chip & Putt” was born seven years ago. And just like The Masters and the Augusta Women’s Amateur, to compete there YOU MUST QUALIFY! It is the only way to get “invited” to walk on these holly grounds.

In the end, these juniors will be sharing time with Condolezza Rice (someone who most of these kids do not know how important she is to golf and America) and great champions like Bubba Watson, Jordan Spieth, Phil Mickelson, Jack Nicklaus, Gary Player and many others who will be there. And, that is where this year it will be more special for Elk City and for Oklahoma!!! Why?

Because Ryder Cowan, age 13, born and raised in Elk City and a couple of years removed to live in Oklahoma City, qualified for this year's Drive, Chip & Putt Finals at this coming Sunday (Golf Channel will show the competition starting at 7:00 a.m.), and therefore "putting Elk City in the golf map”! (I know the announcers will probably say he is from Oklahoma City, but that is just where he lives, he is FROM Elk City!) Many of us had the privilege and pleasure of playing with Ryder many times.

As a 7-11 year old, I played many rounds with him and many of our other junior golfers, several of whom have become pretty good as well, like Tres Hill, Travis Poole, Baylar Barnett and Tate Trotter. I can’t forget our "serious" bets either, where the loser had to smell the shoes of the winner.

Ryder did have a whiff of my shoes… once. But I can’t count how many times I had to smell his shoes (thank God mom Jill always had clean socks for the kid). I knew he was someone special when as a 10 year old (almost 11), and perhaps weighing 70 pounds, soaking wet, shot 72 from the blue tees. I can also attest his shoes did not smell that bad.

No, he didn’t want to play the red tees (I remember another junior, a girl, who hated to play the front tees and played with the men and eventually reached the LPGA after college). That day I “let” him beat me by 3…. At least that is what I told him.

No telling how far this young kid can go in the game.

My best wishes to Ryder and all his family, Grandma Ann Cowan (the most competitive woman I have ever met), Grandpa and Grandma Rocky and Linda Andresen, his parents Sean and Jill Cowan, and all the family that will be there. And a big thank you for the invitation, it would have been my privilege to be able to be there had I been able to arrange for the next day.

For the record, you can drive, chip and putt and not be a good player, but you can't be a good player and shoot great scores without those three skills, and Ryder is a perfect example: he has won countless of tournaments in his age category in different junior programs, including the PGA Junior circuit and the U.S. Kids Junior Programs. That 72 that I mentioned is pretty good, and backed by several rounds in the 60's from whites or reds, where he one time shot a 64 as an 11 year old.

He has won the State honors in both, the PGA circuit and the U.S. Kids, and in the latter he has qualified for the annual U.S. Kids Championship at Pinehurst for four straight years. Just this week, as an 8th grader, he won a high school tournament by scoring a 71.

Please take as many pictures as you can and tell Ryder, that if he does not win… my shoes will be available for a little whiff!

P.S. The one thing I have enjoyed the most is that this kid (as all others with whom I enjoy playing) is better as a kid than as a golfer. Keep it up!

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