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ATLANTA — A strong performance in the opening Drive segment boosted Wilson’s Drew O’Neal to a fourth-place showing among 12 qualifiers in Sunday’s Atlanta regional of national Drive Chip & Putt competition at Atlanta Athletic Club.
O’Neal, a freshman at Beddingfield High, landed all three of his drives inbounds and piled up 64 points — second best to the 67 points amassed by eventual Boys Ages 14-15 champion Tejas Reddy.
O’Neal, a subregional winner at Duke University Golf Course, added 27 points in chipping and 40 in putting for a 131 total — 46 behind Reddy.
Reddy accumulated 67, 45 and 65 points for a 177 total. Robert Thompson placed second with 152 points, followed by Chance Elston with 132 points.
Reddy qualified for the 2020 championship in April at famed Augusta National Golf Club, home of the fabled Masters. Thompson and Elston are alternates. Thus, O’Neal missed alternate status by a point. He placed 10th in last year’s Washington, D.C., regional at Congressional Country Club.
In his first regional appearance, Nate O’Neal, Drew’s twin brother, placed eighth with 115 points. Nate scored 33 points on his drives, 45 on his chips and 37 on his putts.
“I did a lot better than I thought I would on my drives,” Drew revealed during a cell phone conversation on the return trip with his family. “I was pretty happy with that.
“On my first chip, I hit behind it and came up short. I didn’t want to do that again and I hit it long. The third one landed in the fringe and stopped.
“I missed my six-foot putt, but still got 20 points. I hit the 15-foot putt long and hit the 30-foot putt even longer.”
Of the overall performance — a significant improvement from last year’s 10th-place finish, Drew said: “I could have done better on the short game, but I’m fine with it. The person that finished first got 177 points and I don’t think I could have beaten that.”
Of his first regional experience, Nate remarked: “I could have done better, but it was fun. A couple of shots I would like to have back — just little mistakes.”
The twins were impressed with Atlanta Athletic Club.
“It was very nice,” Nate said.
The twins are aging out of Drive Chip & Putt competition after two years of involvement.
“Not many people make it to the third (regional) round,” Drew noted, “and I made it to the third round both years. I’m pretty happy with that.”