BY SAMUEL PICCOLO
Fonthill’s Luke Delgobbo finished fifth on Sunday at the National Drive, Chip and Putt Championship at Augusta National Golf Club in Georgia, a remarkable ending for the 15-year-old E.L. Crossley Secondary School student.
Augusta National is the site of this week’s Masters tournament and perhaps the world’s most famous golf course. It is notably exclusive, with membership on an invitation-only basis. Passes for the tournament are coveted like dugout seats at Fenway Park, and even fewer people are allowed inside the ropes.
But on Sunday, Delgobbo was putting on the 18th green with a chance to win a trophy, if not a green jacket. He was second after the driving portion of the event, knocking his second ball over 260 yards. He was still in second after the chipping section with a chance to win in the putting.
Though his first putt went well past the cup, Delgobbo holed his second one, giving a fist pump as he turned back to the crowd. He was the only boy in his division to sink a putt.
“I don’t think that it will feel real until I’m there,” said Delgobbo last week, though he confessed to thinking about the competition all of the time.
Delgobbo was one of just ten qualifiers for the Boys 14-15 group at Augusta, with the ten all making it out of thousands of competitors across the United States.
The first stage for Delgobbo was at the Fox Valley Club, just over the border, where the top three moved on. Delgobbo came third.
Next was an event in Syracuse, where only the top two moved forward. The final qualifier was on October 1 at Winged Foot Golf Club, north of New York City. Needing to place first, Delgobbo won.
Delgobbo said that he was feeling confident with his driver during all of the qualifiers and didn’t miss the grid once.
“For the past three qualifiers, all of our drives counted,” said Delgobbo before leaving for Georgia last week.
“But at Augusta, your best ball is what counts. So I’ll probably just try and hit the first one in and then be more aggressive after that.”
Delgobbo actually missed the boundaries with his first drive at Augusta, but he still hit his second one the second-farthest of anyone.
At Winged Foot, Delgobbo said that he was shaking on the putting green.
“I missed the putt from six feet. But then I made the fifteen-footer,” said Delgobbo. “From thirty feet, I hit it pretty hard but it hit the hole and then stayed close.”
His long putt on Augusta’s notoriously slick greens rolled some six feet past, but his second one finished right in the heart.
After his finish on Sunday, Delgobbo and all other competitors in the event were given tickets to Monday’s practice round, after which he was to return home.
Delgobbo said that while other competitors from warmer climates have the advantage of playing golf all winter long, he did his best to keeping practising.
“Golftown in St. Catharines has been really good for letting me use one of the simulators there anytime during store hours,” he said.
Delgobbo, who is coached by Lookout Point’s pro JJ Alexander, also traveled frequently throughout the winter to Glen Abbey Golf Club in Mississauga to work with another coach. (Alexander accompanied Delgobbo to Augusta.)
Delgobbo started playing golf when he was 11, and is about to enter his fifth season.
Last year, he competed on the Niagara Junior Tour, and this year intends to play in provincial events, as well as some competitions in the US.