Briel Royce, Lake Nona’s very own golf star, came in second at the National Drive, Chip & Putt competition at Augusta National Golf Club. Drive, Chip & Putt is a free, nationwide junior golf development competition aimed at growing the game by focusing on the three essential skills employed in golf: driving, chipping and putting. The initiative was founded in 2013 by the Masters Tournament, the United States Golf Association, and the PGA of America.
Royce competed at three qualifiers – local, sub-regional, and regional – to earn her spot at the National Drive, Chip & Putt. At the national level, she competed against 10 girls between the ages of 7-9 from across the United States to earn her second-place spot. Royce is the only girl in this age bracket to represent Lake Nona at Drive, Chip & Putt since the competition’s inception six years ago.
Royce described her time competing in the national tourney as “an experience like none other.” She enjoyed the opportunity to enter the golf club by driving down Magnolia Lane, an exclusive entrance that is reserved for members and professional tour players only. Royce was also surrounded by other junior golfers and professionals who share her passion for the game. She was excited to meet the 2012 Masters Tournament winner, Bubba Watson, and to receive putting advice from two-time major winner Zach Johnson. Royce also received her trophy from 2018 Masters champion Patrick Reed and the first-ever winner of Augusta National Women’s Amateur, Jennifer Kupcho.
This was an exciting competition not only for Royce but for her parents, too.
“It was a humbling experience seeing her on the exclusive Augusta National Golf Club course,” they said. “Knowing the struggle of juggling time, she trained for the event with martial arts black belt training, prepping for the FSA, and volunteering in the community. Briel has only been golfing for two years, so we were extremely amazed with her accomplishment and composure on the course.”
This year also marked a historical year for women’s golf. This was the first time they competed at Augusta National Golf Club. Royce was able to meet many female players, including Florida native Alexa Pano. One of the highlights of her experience was being featured on the cover of the Augusta Chronicle with Jennifer Kupcho under the headline, “Championing the Future.”
Royce began playing golf in an after-school program with the Roddy Golf Academy. She enjoyed the game, and it was recommended that she start competing. She loves golf because it allows her to be outdoors, play different courses that present new challenges, and meet people from all over the world on the course.
Now that she has come in second at Drive, Chip & Putt, Royce will continue to practice, compete in junior tournaments, and pursue a second opportunity to compete at Augusta. Her goal is to continue strengthening her game while enjoying the time she has on the course with friends.
As for advice that Royce would give to anyone interested in becoming a junior golfer or trying golf for the first time, she said, “Try out an after-school program where you can learn the basics. Have fun while learning and make many friends. Getting out to golf is a great way to stay active, practice and have fun.”