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First Coast represented at Drive, Chip & Putt National Finals during Masters Week

Jacksonville Beach resident Miles Russell took seventh place in the Age 10-11 division. It was his second trip to the Drive, Chip & Putt National Finals.

When he was two-years old, Jacksonville Beach's Miles Russell opted for the Golf Channel instead of cartoons. Seriously.

"There was nothing else that was entertaining to watch!" the now-sixth grader explains.

But it was a sign of things to come: by the time he was eight-years old, Miles was competing in national golf tournaments, including the Drive, Chip & Putt National Finals at Augusta National.

"When he's walking around the house, he has a golf club in his hand," his grandfather, Ron Hipp, added. "He watches it. He reads it. He YouTubes it. If he’s on his phone, he’s searching golf lessons and stuff of that nature."

After qualifying for The Masters' signature, youth event in 2018, Miles missed the cut in 2019 (another golfer "got hot" during the final, qualifying event, he said). To advance to the National Finals, golfers must place in the top-three in their local tournament, top-two in their sub-regional tournament, and then win their regional tournament. Miles came back to advance once again to the 2020 National Finals... only for the COVID-19 pandemic to strike months later.

“I kinda figured it be cancelled, just because of everything that was happening. I was just happy it was just postponed, not cancelled.”

Indeed: Augusta National skipped 2021 qualifying, and instead allowed the 2020 finalists to have their moment-in-the-sun during The 2021 Masters. The unexpected delay has given Miles Russell a new perspective.

"Now it’s even more exciting to go back. Looking even more forward to it.”

The Drive, Chip & Putt National Finals were held Sunday, April 4, prior to the start of the 2021 tournament. Russell finished seventh in the Age 10-11 division. Finalists were treated to a champions dinner of their own Saturday night, and they then got to walk the practice rounds prior to Thursday's first round.