The main event in Augusta gets underway Thursday. But in Hawaii last weekend, some of the best junior golfers hit the golf course for the Annual Drive, Chip and Putt Championship including one young hot shot from Oahu’s North Shore.
Mia Cepeda finished in a tie for 8th in her age group. But the experience is one that will last a lifetime.
“I don’t know who my favorite player is probably Sergio Garcia. And for the women, I don’t know. Maybe Danielle Kang or Michele Wie,” said Mia Cepeda.
It’s pretty easy to see Mia Cepeda is a student of the game. And equally easy to see she had golf clubs in her hands by the time she could walk.
“I’ve been golfing since I was like four years old and I did my first tournament when I was like five. Like when I had plastic clubs and I’ve pretty much been doing it my entire life,” said Cepeda.
The kids clubs are long gone, and her game, like herself, has matured quite nicely.
“It definitely took some time for me to get committed to it but I really like it now. My dad really liked golf when he was younger. He just got us into it and I just fell in love with it,” said Cepeda.
And she’s parlayed that love of the game into some serious early success. She says she gets nervous when the stakes are high but the Oahu North Shore resident showed no signs of nerves at Torrey Pines when she qualified for the National Drive, Chip and Putt finals.
“It didn’t sink in right away but it felt really amazing. I knew I did good but I didn’t realize that I actually did it . But that day I wasn’t nervous and I did everything really well and I got it done,” said Cepeda.
Getting it done is quite the understatement. She performed so well she earned the highest qualifying score of anyone going to the finals in her 12-13 age group. Excelling in all three skills.
“I like to think that I’m pretty good at all of them equally. But I would probably say I’m better than most people at chipping. I’m not like the longest driver. Putting, I’m pretty good at but I think I’m the best at chipping,” said Cepeda.
And the Kahuku Intermediate student has always had someone pushing and supporting her every step of the way. She and her sister Ava have grown up playing golf together. They travel often for junior tournaments. And when they’re home they practice at Kahuku Golf Course. A windy, picturesque nine holes tucked away on the North Shore. Now, even at her young age, there seems to be a total understanding of the privilege she enjoyed, to walk the lush fairways of Augusta National.
“I just want to remember being able to play there. I want to remember doing well there because this is pretty much a once in a lifetime experience,” said Mia.