By Ben Stroup
Not many fourth graders will be practicing golf in their basement this winter.
Then again, not many will compete in the Drive, Chip and Putt National Championship at Augusta National Golf Club the Sunday before the Masters Tournament, either.
Nine-year-old Mia Raines, a fourth grader at Johnnycakes Elementary, will be doing just that. And as one of only 10 girls in the country to qualify for the event in her age group, she can’t afford not to take a few subterranean swings this winter.
“I have a lot of practicing to do between now and April,” Raines, who punched a ticket to the championship by winning her regional qualifier Saturday at Oakmont Country Club (site of the 2016 U.S. Open), said.
Raines’ run to Augusta started back in June, when she won the local Drive, Chip and Putt qualifier at Blacklick Woods Golf Course. She then went on to win the sub-regional qualifier at Muirfield Village Golf Club in August.
Her appearance at Oakmont marked the second straight year she advanced to the event’s regional rung of competition. Last year she finished second at Prestwick Village Golf Club in Michigan.
“It was disappointing to get that far and come in second place last year,” Raines said. “But I set a goal and worked really hard this year … I’m so excited to be going to Augusta.”
The event will air on the Golf Channel on Sunday, April 3, 2016.
For now, Raines will look to make the most out of the last bit of warm weather Ohio has to offer, working on her game every chance she gets. When the basement finally does beckon, though, she’ll have a pair of pretty excited practice partners: older sisters Leila (14) and Kara (17), a current standout on the Olentangy girls golf team.
As big as golf is for the family — all three sisters are accomplished junior golfers — just going to Augusta is a huge deal. Former Masters champions will be in attendance, and the family will get the opportunity to attend a Masters practice round.
Raines, the daughter of Nolan and Michelle, has been competing in golf tournaments since she was six, and recently competed in her third U.S. Kids Golf World Championship in Pinehurst, N.C., where she placed in the top 20.
Follow Ben Stroup on Twitter @delgazette_ben.
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