Alana Kutt is headed to TPC Sawgrass on Sept. 28 for the Drive, Chip and Putt regionals.
Golf tournaments are about, among other things, resilience.
Hit a bunker shot off the tee? If you can recover on your next shot and get back to the fairway, you can still save the hole. Then repeat that 17 more times.
What if you only had three drives total? Then three chip attempts, then three putts? Each shot would be significantly more pressure-filled. Such is the reality of Drive, Chip and Putt, the youth competition started by The PGA of America, the Masters Tournament and the United States Golf Association in 2013.
Golfers aged 7-15 compete against each other, getting up to 25 points per shot based on different factors in each category. For example, drives must finish in the 40-yard-wide fairway to count; a drive that goes 25 yards or less will receive one point, while a drive that goes 300 yards or more will receive the maximum 25 points.
It is within this system that Alana Kutt, 13, is thriving. After playing in the competition for four years and getting knocked out in the sub-regional round every time, Kutt is making the fifth attempt count. She has advanced to the regional round of the 14-15 division (age is based on April 2020, when Kutt will be 14) and will compete against 11 other girls on Sept. 28 at TPC Sawgrass for a spot in the finals. Those finals, of course, will be held just before the Masters next April in Augusta, Ga., and televised on the Golf Channel.
“I did it,” Kutt said. “The perseverance finally paid off.”
She did it with a score of 151 at the sub-regional event on Aug. 10 in Naples at Vineyards Country Club, taking the best drive score of the day (46) but finishing second overall to Eliza Kodak (160). Both girls advanced to TPC Sawgrass. If she makes it to the finals, Kutt will have a great chance at winning. Florida golfers’ scores are, on average, higher than most other states in the country. Her score would have won all five sub-regionals in California, for instance.
It almost didn’t happen. Kutt and her father, Matt Kutt, arrived home on Aug. 3 from a trip to California. The last local (first round) qualifier was the next day in Miami, and both Alana and Matt considered it a lost cause. They were too exhausted.
Matt said he couldn’t sleep that night. He knew how much Alana loved competing in Drive, Chip and Putt, and wanted to teach her a lesson about fighting through adversity. So he woke her up at 4 a.m. and told her they were driving to Miami. Alana, jet-lagged and sleep-deprived, managed to qualify for a sub-regional with 81 points. It wasn’t her best performance, but it was good enough, she said.
As far as expectations for the TPC Sawgrass competition, Alana said she has none. One bad shot can sink your day, and anyone can hit one bad shot. Likewise, an average golfer can string together a few incredible shots and win the whole thing. Knowing that actually gives Alana less stress, she said. Whatever happens, happens. Tournaments are nerve-wracking, but this? This is pure fun.
Considering where she is now, I’d say that 4 a.m. road trip was worth it.