There is so much that Jaden Dumdumaya remembers from his trip to the 2022 Drive, Chip & Putt National Finals in Augusta, Georgia.
There is the drive down Magnolia Lane.
There is the time he spent warming up, driving, and chipping at the Augusta National Golf Club practice area.
There is the moment when his name was announced, and he walked out to the teeing area to begin the competition in the boys’ 14-15 age division.
There is the handshake he had with Dustin Johnson, one of the top golf players.
There is the practice round on Monday of Masters week that he was able to take in as he watched Tiger Woods, Scottie Scheffler, Collin Morikawa, Patrick Cantlay, and so many others.
“The conditions are amazing. I’ve never even stepped foot on a course with conditions like that. Everything was perfect,” Dumdumaya, whose nickname is “Lil’ Dragon,” recalled. “The weather was amazing – clear skies, no clouds at all. It was beautiful out there – the trees, the flowers.
“The greens were amazing. They rolled perfectly. The grass was like a carpet, and I had to touch the ground a couple of times to see if it was real.
“Nothing better, in my opinion. It was perfect, just like how I pictured it in my dreams, basically.”
Dumdumaya, a sophomore at De La Salle High School in Concord, was on top of his game – starting out when he crushed his first drive of the day 261.70 yards and ended it by holing out his second putt from 15 feet.
As the national Drive, Chip, and Putt champion in his age group, Dumdumaya was just about perfect, accumulating 29 out of a possible 30 points. He was presented with a trophy, which is now in a cabinet in the living room area at the family’s home in Fairfield.
“After they called my name and I was walking out to hit my drives, it felt like just a normal practice session – just me, the club, and the ball,” he said. “After hitting the first shot in all three of the disciplines, I gained more confidence in myself, and then the nerves started to go away slowly.
“When I was in the moment, I was focused. It was just me focusing on winning. I wanted to win so bad that I kind of tuned out all of the cameras and all the crowd.”
The eighth annual Drive, Chip, and Putt National Finals, televised by Golf Channel on Sunday, April 3, drew 80 players from 30 different states. They were grouped into four age divisions – both boys and girls, ages 7-9, 10-11, 12-13, 14-15.
According to its website, www.drivechipandputt.com, Drive, Chip, and Putt is a joint initiative founded in 2013 by the Masters Tournament, United States Golf Association, and The PGA of America. It is a free nationwide junior golf development competition aimed at growing the game by focusing on the three fundamental skills employed in golf.
“By tapping the creative and competitive spirit of girls and boys ages 7-15, Drive, Chip, and Putt provides aspiring junior golfers an opportunity to play with their peers in qualifiers around the country. Participants who advance through local, sub-regional, and regional qualifying in each age/gender category earn a place in the National Finals, which is conducted at Augusta National Golf Club the Sunday before the Masters Tournament and is broadcast live by Golf Channel,” the organization’s website, www.drivechipandputt.com, points out.
Youths advance from local, sub-regional, and regional qualifying. The finals are held prior to the start of the Masters Tournament each year.
Dumdumaya won a local qualifier at El Macero Country Club in Yolo County on July 6, a sub-regional qualifier at the Haggin Oaks Golf Complex in Sacramento on August 3, and then a regional qualifier on September 26 at the Pebble Beach Golf Links. He advanced out of the Northwest region.
“It was a different experience than any other tournament I’ve played, with the tension and everyone wanting to win,” said Dumdumaya, 15, who plays out of Rancho Solano Golf Course in Fairfield. “I feel like it’s not just me, but everyone else in all age groups probably had one of the best experiences. Drive, Chip, and Putt are not like your regular junior golf tournament, where you play 18 holes, 36 holes, or more. It’s six shots, that you really have to bring 110 percent into those six shots. You can’t really let up or make a mistake. I was glad that I didn’t make any mistakes that would cost me the championship.”
Participants get two drives, two chips, and two putts in each of the age divisions, accumulating points in the three skills – driving distance, chipping, and putting, according to www.drivechipandputt.com. “The latter two categories are measured by proximity to the hole. The highest composite score determines the winner,” according to www.drivechipandputt.com.
“Right as the putt stops or the drive lands and the ball stops, it’s like all the nerves just slowly came rushing in again, as you can hear the crowd just behind you on the driving range. They’re very close and the emotion is there,” said Dumdumaya, the Junior Tour of Northern California Boys Player of the Year for the 2020-21 season.
All of the players had to be at Augusta National at 7 a.m; extremely early. Dumdumaya had breakfast and then got on the shuttle ride to the club at 6:45 a.m. They were able to use the facilities, first for driving and then chipping, and then later for putting.
“It was nice to drive up Magnolia Lane, with the sun just past the trees. It looked beautiful going down that road and seeing all of that,” he said.
The driving portion started out with Drive, Chip, and Putt, and was followed by putting.
He felt prepared, both physically and mentally, going into it, saying he had a good, positive mindset.
“I kind of like felt like the nerves weren’t raining down on me because I told myself that I was there for a reason. I put all the hard work and effort into getting to that point,” said Dumdumaya, who was joined at the nationals by his parents, Stan and Jenny Dumdumaya; his brother, Vohn Dumdumaya; and his aunt and uncle, Kris Braga and Perfecto Braga.
Jaden Dumdumaya has been trying to get to Augusta National for the finals of Drive, Chip, and Putt since he was 8 years old. This was his last year of eligibility.
“It’s definitely something that I will remember, and the region being at Pebble Beach,” he said. “Pebble Beach and Augusta National are probably the two most iconic golf courses in the United States or even the world. The putting sections in both the regional and the national finals, it all kind of came down to those. They are memories that I definitely won’t forget.
“I definitely encourage others out there to participate in Drive, Chip, and Putt.”
Dumdumaya had a record-setting day, as his 10-point margin of victory is the largest in Drive, Chip, and Putt history, according to www.drivechipandputt.com.
He hit his first drive 261.70 yards. The second drive was outside the grid. He took first place in driving.
“Our game plan going into that was put the first one in, as long as it’s in the grid. I managed to hit a pretty straight drive just on the left-center of the fairway,” he said.
Dumdumaya used a 60-degree wedge in the chipping, with his first chip stopping 1 foot, 10 inches from the pin, and his second chip 5 feet, 6 inches. He finished second in chipping, at 7 feet, 4 inches from the pin.
His first putt, from 30 feet, came within 8 inches of the cup. He made the second putt, which was from 15 feet, giving him first place inputting and the title.
“I managed to do like a Tiger (Woods) fist pump,” he said. “I was thinking about it before, that hopefully, I can put myself in a position where I can give myself a good celebration to remember my time there.”
Dustin Johnson and Bubba Watson congratulated him.
“Being able to even hit balls at Augusta National is something that not a lot of people get to do. That’s special. Augusta is inspiring to me, and hopefully to others because it gives you experiences that you don’t normally get. The clubhouse is amazing.”
As he was waiting for the shuttle to leave Augusta, he also received congratulations from Vijay Singh.
“I was pretty excited during that moment,” said Dumdumaya. “He said congratulations to me. It was amazing, something that I’ll remember for the rest of my life.”
Before heading home, Dumdumaya was able to see a practice round on April 4.
“It’s just really cool seeing how they practice and the effort and time they put in. I enjoyed watching them practice and I definitely learned a good amount,” he said.
Support of Morton Golf Foundation
Dumdumaya is the recipient of the Morton Golf Foundation Junior Golf Development Grant. The grant provides “financial support for families to help their children learn to compete, develop skills, enhance core values, and build lasting relationships through the game of golf,” according to the Morton Golf Foundation website, mortongolffoundation.org.
Victory in March
Dumdumaya won the Junior Tour of Northern California Spring Series I Championship at Stockton Golf and Country Club and The Reserve at Spanos Park in Stockton in March.
He shot 5-under-par 138 for the 36-hole event, with rounds of 68 and 70.
* Marty James is a freelance writer who makes his home in Napa. He retired on June 4, 2019, after spending 40 years as a sports writer, sports editor, and executive sports editor for the Napa Valley Register, a daily newspaper in Napa County. He is a 1979 graduate of Sacramento State and a member of the California Golf Writers & Broadcasters Association. In 2016, the CIF Sac-Joaquin Section inducted him into the Hall of Fame.