Balding Wedges Her Way from Whistling Straits to Augusta National

written by: Wisconsin.golf's Gary D'Amato

HAVEN — Sarah Balding waited four hours Saturday at Whistling Straits for her age division to begin competition in the Drive, Chip & Putt Regional Finals, so what was another few minutes for a playoff with a trip to the famed Augusta National Golf Club?

The freshman at Brookfield Central outlasted Shannyn Vogler of Sherrard, Ill., 38-17 in the playoff to win the 14-15 age division and advance to the Drive, Chip & Putt National Finals. Balding, the only Wisconsin golfer in the regional competition to advance, said she knew Vogler from previous competitions, which made the playoff nerves a little easier to handle.

"We met in a golf tournament maybe like four years ago and we’ve played together a few times since," Balding saidd. "We text and play practice rounds together here and there. I think it was a great experience to play the playoff with her. It was nerve-wracking, but there are little things I tell myself that my sister (DePauw University golfler Emily Balding) taught me to help me calm down."

Balding and Vogler both scored 141 points during the regulation to force the only playoff of the four girls and four boys age groups. Balding shared chipping honors (40 points) with Vogler and Isabella McCauley, who was third overall, and placed third in putting (55 points) and fourth in driving (46) to match Vogler, who placed third in driving (49) and fourth in putting (52).

In the playoff, Balding outdrove Vogler 229 yards to 207 to win the discipline 17-15 in points. She outscored Vogler 20-1 in chipping and tied 1-1 in putting.

"My first trip to Augusta National," Balding said.  "I think I’m just looking forward to seeing everyone out there and seeing the different golfers. I think it’s such a great experience meeting other people through this sport."

Results on www.drivechipandputt.com/results. 

2019 Drive Chip and Putt Qualifying opens in January.