WATCH ABOVE: After surviving four qualification rounds of the Drive, Putt and Chip Championships, Vanessa Borovilos is set to represent Canada at Augusta National. Rob Leth reports.
When Dino Borovilos started taking his pre-school daughter, Vanessa, to hit golf balls at a nearby range, he had no idea that she’d end up at Augusta National, home of the Masters.
But that’s exactly what happened. Vanessa Borovilos, 8, is already in Augusta, Ga., preparing to battle other kids her age at the Drive, Chip and Putt Championship, which is held on Sunday before the Masters begins.
“I’m not a good golfer, by any means,” says Dino Borovilos, a financial adviser from Mississauga, Ont. “But I took her to hit some balls right around her third birthday. She could do it right off the bat. She showed a lot of athleticism.”
That athleticism is taking Vanessa Borovilos to the place where golf legends have been made: where Arnold Palmer, Jack Nicklaus, Tiger Woods and Canadian Mike Weir won the coveted green jacket.
Augusta National, the ultra-exclusive club that hosts the Masters, started supporting the children’s championship last year as a means of promoting the sport to youngsters. The Drive, Chip and Putt Championship will be shown on Golf Channel.
Asked what she knows of the home of the Masters, Vanessa giggles.
And what does she make of playing for such a prestigious title? Well, it isn’t the Easter Bunny that’s keeping her up.
“I’m having a little trouble sleeping,” she explains.
Three Canadians competing for kids’ title
Vanessa Borovilos, who is in the seven to nine-year old division, is one of three Canadians at Augusta on Sunday. Jayla Kucy, from Camrose, Alta., is also attending, along with Ryan Blair, from Oakbank, Man.
Dino Borovilos has watched his daughter progress from those early days at the driving range, recently using Doug Lawrie, a Burlington, Ont.-based instructor, to help her progress. Lawrie is suitably impressed by his prize pupil.
“She has a lot of focus and she always wants to win,” Lawrie says. “We play little games when I teach her and she always wants to beat me.”
Vanessa Borovilos won two qualifiers last summer to advance to the regional final in Michigan. She won the overall title at the event, which is, as the title suggests, judged on drives, chips and putts. Vanessa Borovilos says her strength is the six-foot putt, one of three she’ll make at Augusta, along with two drives and two chips.
“It is a long way to travel for seven shots,” her father jokes, noting Augusta National paid for all the flights and accommodations for the competitors in the event.
How will she do? If her track record of wins is any indication, Vanessa may well follow in the footsteps of the King, the Golden Bear and Tiger in winning on one of golf’s most fabled courses.
“I don’t know if she fully gets what a big deal Augusta is,” Dino Borovilos said. “And in practice she’s putting pressure on herself to be perfect. But she’ll be just fine. She handles herself very well.”