Ticket Punched

Kipp Madison may only be 13 years old, but he’s no stranger to the camera. Eleven years ago, he made a brief appearance on the Golf Channel when personality Michael Breed showcased a video of the then 24-month-old with his clubs.

In a few weeks, Madison will make his second appearance on the network, but there’s a bit more riding on this trip in front of the cameras. The 13-year-old Augusta resident qualified for the 10th annual Drive, Chip & Putt National Finals after winning at a regional qualifying event at The Golf Club of Tennessee to secure his spot, becoming one of 80 junior golfers to receive the prestigious invitation. The honor marks a milestone in his young career. 

“It was probably the biggest moment since I’ve played golf,” Madison said, who birdied on the No. 17 at the Tournament Players Club Sawgrass. “Everyone was high-fiving me, and I was super thankful.”

Held the Sunday before the Masters at Augusta National Golf Club, Drive, Chip & Putt is a joint initiative between the Masters Tournament, the United States Golf Association and the Professional Golfers’ Association of America. Young golfers compete in local, sub-regional and regional qualifying events before making it to the finals. During the competition, golfers are scored in the three categories, as reflected in the event’s name.

First, competitors take three drives into a 40-yard-wide fairway, with longer drives in the fairway scoring more points. Next, golfers take three 10- to 15-yard chip shots onto a green, with shots closer to the pin scoring more points. The final three shots are putts from 6, 15, and 30 feet, with more accurate putts scoring higher point values.

Madison advanced through competitions at Legends Golf Resort and Fort Jackson Golf Club, both in South Carolina, before his regional qualifying event in Kingston Springs, Tenn. He qualified with the second-highest score in his age group, and his experiences in those earlier stages helped him realize the gravity of each swing during competition.

“Since there are only nine shots, I learned that the mistakes in Drive, Chip & Putt can be more costly than mistakes on the regular course,” Madison said. “You get 72 shots normally, and if you make one bad swing, you can normally make up for it in a hole or two. In Drive, Chip & Putt, you really can’t make any mistakes unless you’re on fire.”

It’s not Madison’s first experience with these events — he entered in his first local tournament as a 6-year-old — but it is the furthest he’s ever advanced. His mother, Lori, has watched him grow as a golfer, and she’s witnessed and calmed the nerves the seventh-grader has felt through his years of competition.

“During the process, he’s learned that it’s not nervousness, but it’s excitement,” Lori said. “We’ve always told him that if you’re nervous, you’re fearful because you haven’t prepared. The emotion is more excitement because he does prepare.”

Typically, Madison plays in 30 to 40 tournaments per year, but he’s taking a bit of a break, aiming to compete in 25 to 30 during the 2024 season. With a tournament-heavy schedule, Madison opts for more practice on the links than the range, playing 18 holes a day weekly and flexing to 27 holes on some weekends. When Madison opts for drills, he prefers working on his short game, an important part of his skill set.

“I’m going to have 30 to 35 shots around the green because I’m not going to hit every green,” he said. “That’s where all of the shots are; if you can just minimize those shots around the green, you’ll be set.”

While Madison wants to minimize the short game, he seeks to maximize his impact. After competitions, Madison gives each of his partners a card with a note that thanks them for their time, encourages them to never give up and wishes them good luck in their next round of golf. Along with the card, he gives a ball marker inscribed with Romans 12:2 — a token to lead others toward the young man’s positivity and faith.

Madison’s efforts off the course are perhaps more impactful. Last year, he and his brother, Zane, used leftover sponsorship funds to help fellow golfers pay for competition fees and even bought an electric scooter for a man they met at a local restaurant that lacked reliable transportation. The brothers share a heart of service.

“That’s something they are focusing on in 2024 — helping other junior golfers and helping people that have nothing to do with golf but have [a] need in the community,” Lori said. “It’s something that has been on the boys’ hearts for over a year now. They’re doing it to give back to the community and help grow the game of golf.”

For Madison, Drive, Chip & Putt represents a journey of growth. When he takes the course in a few weeks, it won’t be the first time; Zane made the national finals in 2022. But this time, he won’t be cheering on his brother or simply making a cameo. He’ll be competing for a chance at a national title on a course that lives and breathes golf history.

“It’s going to be a mixture of nerves and excitement,” Madison said. “I can’t wait to be there. I’m going to be where so many PGA TOUR players have been, and I’m so excited. Riding down Magnolia Lane is going to be super special. I rode down Magnolia Lane one time for my brother in Drive, Chip & Putt, so to go down it again is going to be incredible.”

Photos courtesy of Lori Jordan Madison

Seen in the 2024 April issue of Augusta magazine and the Augusta magazine Tournament Guide.

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