More than a few avid golfers have spent a lifetime dreaming of sinking a putt on the 18th green at Augusta National Golf Club, but most never come closer than watching pro golfers attempt the feat on TV.
Not so for Ressie Lemmon, 10, who lived the dream only four years after first picking up a golf club.
On April 4, at the beginning of Masters week, Ressie was one of 80 finalists from across the nation to compete at Georgia’s Augusta National in the National Drive, Chip and Putt competition. She finished fifth out of 10 in her age group.
To reach Augusta, Ressie advanced in the 7 to 9 age bracket through local and sub-regional qualifiers to compete in the regional competition at Oakland Hills Golf Club in Michigan, which has hosted six U.S. Opens and three PGA Championships.
Ressie, a McCordsville resident and fourth-grade student at Fortville Elementary School, won the sub-regional and regional rounds but finished second in the local qualifier to her little sister, Nellie, 8, who was just old enough to play in the same age bracket.
“I still finished second, so that was good,” Ressie said. “But I’m still a little mad she beat me.”
‘Disney World and heaven for golfers’
Golf runs in the Lemmon family. Ressie’s maternal grandfather, Tom Kirby, is the boys golf coach at Mt. Vernon High School. Her 12-year-old brother, Elijah, also plays. Ressie enjoys playing with her family and enjoys the game because of its many challenges.
“I like playing with my family and that not every shot is the same so you kind of have to think about each one differently,” Ressie said.
Ressie and Nellie’s father, Adam Lemmon, 40, isn’t an avid golfer but enjoys being outdoors and the beauty of the golf course. Most of all, he embraces the opportunity to spend quality time with his children.
“I just love that we get to spend time together outside,” Adam said. “There’s no TV on, we get to walk around together on a beautiful day, and I can ask them about how school went. (Ressie and Nellie) love the game. They always have a smile on at the course.”
Ressie’s mother, April Lemmon, described the family’s recent trip to Augusta National as “a blend of Disney World and heaven for golfers.”
Her daughter agreed.
“It was very nice,” Ressie said. “The grass was really green. They treated us very well and were very nice and kind to us. I really liked the drive down Magnolia Lane. That was very beautiful. It was just very beautiful there.”
The perfect putt
The national competition was held in the PGA player’s private chipping area, which is only used once a year by PGA professionals, and the driving range and the 18th green. Each player had two attempts at each event. For driving, only the longest drive was scored. Ressie said her best drive was her first attempt, 167.7 yards, and she finished sixth in that portion.
Next came chipping. From the private practice area, each player had two chips that were scored on the cumulative distance the ball ended up from the pin. One girl even made her chip shot. Ressie did not, as her chips ended up 8 feet, 4 inches and 7 feet, 5 inches from the hole for a sixth-place finish. Going into the last event, Ressie was tied for seventh.
Her goal entering the Nationals was to finish in the top five, and to reach it she would need to perform well in putting.
She tapped her first putt 5 feet from the hole. To finish in the top five, she’d need to hit her final putt less than 3 feet away from the pin. Ressie sank a 15-foot putt to reach her goal and went home with a fifth-place finish.
Breakout: The perks of Augusta
Ressie Lemmon didn’t just leave Augusta National with memories. She also received plenty of gifts to commemorate the trip.
“(The Augusta National staff) gave us a bag and we got masks, some pens, like Sharpies, and AirPods,” Ressie said.
Ressie got to meet former Notre Dame football coach Lou Holtz and former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice. She fist-bumped two-time Masters champion Bubba Watson.
When she returned home to her friends at Fortville Elementary, she received a bit of star treatment.
“They wanted me to give them my autograph. They told me congratulations,” Ressie said. “They gave me sunglasses and fake flowers.”
Why fake flowers?
“Because that was all they had,” Ressie said with a laugh.