Leila Raines was proud of her younger sister Mia — then a fourth grader at Johnnycake Corners Elementary School — when she won a Drive, Chip and Putt regional final to earn a trip to Augusta National Golf Club to compete in the national championship last spring.
Leila was thrilled, as any big sister would be, when given the chance to attend the event earlier this year and see Mia, who finished first in putting and second overall in her age group, compete on one of the most prestigious courses in the world.
At the same time, though, she kinda wished it was her out there.
Well … wish granted.
After winning the Drive, Chip and Putt regional finals on Sunday at Oakmont Country Club (home of the 2016 U.S. Open), it’ll be her doing the driving, chipping and putting at Augusta next spring.
“Watching Mia compete only made me want it more,” Leila said. “This was only my second attempt to try and qualify, but it was my last shot because of my age. I really hoped we would have a chance to go back to Augusta. I’m so excited that I get to be able to bring my family back this time.”
Punching a ticket to the national finals is quite an accomplishment. Leila earned first place in the local Drive, Chip and Putt qualifier at Kittyhawk Golf Center in Dayton on a rainy July day, then went on to win the sub-regional qualifier at Muirfield Village Golf Club the following month before advancing to the regional finals at Oakmont Country Club.
“The entire experience at Augusta was something our family will never forget,” the girls’ mom, Michelle, said. “Leila and Mia both wanted to win the opportunity to go back in 2017. Mia won the local qualifying event at The Golf Depot and took first place at the sub-regional qualifying event at Muirfield Village, but she came in second in her age group at Oakmont this year — just six points shy of the regional win and a return ticket to Augusta.”
The girls’ older sister, Kara, a senior at Olentangy, is also a golfer and has verbally committed to play Division I golf at Youngstown State University.
Leila carded a three-under-par 69 at the most recent OCC tournament.
“Once our high school season ends, I’ll really start focusing on preparing for Augusta,” Leila said.
Leila is one of only 10 girls, those from a pool of thousands in her age group (14-15) throughout North America, to advance to the national finals. The event will air on the Golf Channel on Sunday, April 2, 2017.
Follow Ben Stroup on Twitter @delgazette_ben.