Mark Nelson, Westwood Country Club
Matt Moloney was 4 years old when he started going to Westwood range and golf course with his father, John, and his older brother, Joe. “If my mom wasn’t home, they had to take me to the golf course,” he said.
The early exposure to golf quickly turned into a passion that will culminate on April 2 when Moloney competes in the Drive, Chip & Putt National Finals at Augusta National Golf Club. The competition will be televised live by the Golf Channel. Moloney qualified by winning the regional competition for his age group at Baltusrol Golf Club in New Jersey last fall. Two years ago, Matt made it to the regional competition where he finished in third place. Only the top finisher from each regional qualifies for Augusta.
“I like the challenge of golf,” Moloney said. “I like how hard it is and trying to beat your best score.” For the record, Moloney best scores are 32 for nine holes and 71 for 18 holes.
Drive, Chip & Putt was founded in 2013 as a joint initiative by the Masters Tournament, the USGA and the PGA of America to grow the game of golf among juniors by focusing on three fundamental skills.
“My favorite competition is driving because you hit the ball as far as you can,” Moloney said. Players hit three drives that must land within a 40-yard wide grid and are measured for total distance. Chipping involves three shots from 10-15 yards and points are awarded based on how close to the hole the shots land. Moloney holed one of his chips at Baltusrol.
“Putting is the hardest part for me because there is a 20 second time limit and you have to read the putt and hit it,” Moloney said. He believes putting is also difficult because the rules do not permit competitors to practice the putt. Competitors attempt three putts – 6 feet, 15 feet and 30 feet.
With the finals still more than a month away, Moloney can be found most days practicing at Westwood for a couple hours after school, even in the coldest weather. He likes to change up his practice routine and then play a few holes with a friend.
Although he is excited about competing at Augusta, he admits to being a little nervous at the prospect of playing before a large contingent of family and friends as well as the large gallery that often includes Augusta members and well-known professionals. Assistant PGA professional Billy Hoffman will be inside the ropes with Matt to offer support.
Moloney said his favorite golfers are Jordan Spieth, Rory McIlroy and Dustin Johnson. Spieth gave him a golf ball at the RBC Heritage Classic in Hilton Head one year and he also scored an autograph from Rickie Fowler.
Asked if he has any superstitions on the golf course, Moloney said, “Every time I win, I have to do the same routine the next time I play.” Here’s hoping that routine continues to be successful.