While the two Berkshire County junior golfers who made the long trip to Pinehills Golf Club in Plymouth to take part in the regional Drive, Chip and Putt contest didn’t come home with a victory and a trip to Augusta National, they did return with something very valuable -- experience gained in competition.
"Winning was a real longshot, but I thought he did well," said Brian Shepardson, the father of 7-year-old Max. "It was a great learning experience."
"I’m extremely glad that I went," said 14-year-old Collette Basiliere, the daughter of Bas Ridge Golf Course owner Bill Basiliere. "When the golf team starts in the fall, it’s going to be easier to get up there and not feel as much pressure."
Basiliere is headed into ninth grade at Wahconah Regional High School and hopes to join her brother, Jasper, on Pete Terpak’s team.
Shepardson and Basiliere both qualified for the regional competition at Granite Links in Quincy in July. Shepardson, with 94 points, won the boys 7-9 age division while Basiliere was second in the girls 14-15 division with 52 points.
The regionals -- with 20 first- and second-place winners from the other local qualifiers in each age division -- was a big step up in competition and conditions.
"It was a much stronger field and Max didn’t do quite as well," said Brian Shepardson, whose son finished 11th with 63 points (106 points won the division).
The greens were fast and the chipping setup offered a different look than the juniors faced at Granite Links.
"We went and practiced the night before but they cut the greens in the morning and they were much faster than they had been," Brian said. "I knew the chipping would be problematic. They were chipping uphill to a crest, then it was fast and downhill once you got to the green."
The tough conditions led to a lower score than at Granite Links, but Max came close on several putts and that makes a big difference in earning points.
"He could do it again and might score 100 points," Brian said.
Still, said dad, it didn’t take long for Max to get over not winning as he whacked away at balls on the driving range with the other kids.
Count dad as among those who may have learned a thing or two.
"One of the kids in the older group had a Taylormade 460CC driver and he let Max hit it one with it and he crushed the ball," said Brian. "Max was using a cutdown ladies 3-wood. I am going to have to look into what are the best clubs for him to be hitting."
Having gone through the local qualifier, Basiliere was more at ease at Pinehills, but the conditions were also more demanding.
"I was trying not to pressure myself and just trying to have fun," she said. "I was more relaxed this time and had a better understanding of what would happen."
Basiliere came in believing more in her chipping and putting -- "I’ve been hitting my drives to the right" -- and she performed well with her putter. She made the 6-foot putt, and earned valuable points on her other two putts, with her 30-footer going in-and-out.
Like the Shepardsons, Basiliere found the uphill-downhill chipping course to be quite a challenge. Her best chip earned her 15 points.
Having worked hard on her driving in the month leading up to the regionals, Basiliere said she was more confident this time around. But, external forces made things a little tougher that she had hoped.
"I had to wait in line for 45 minutes to drive and then I had about 30 seconds to warm up," she said. "Then, when I hit the first one, there was a cameraman behind me and I had never experienced anything like that before. It kind of freaked me out a little."
Still, she hit the first drive 170 yards and totaled 15 points for three drives.
Getting involved in the competition clearly has added to her progress as she eyes making the Wahconah golf team.
"I was preparing so much for this that it has really helped my overall golf game," Basiliere, who has worked with Kay McMahon at eduKaytiongolf and credits Wahconah professionals Jim Underdown and Milton Torres for showing her drills to help her practice routine.
Of course, having a father who owns a golf course doesn’t hurt as she looks to become a good golfer.
"It’s a bit of an advantage," she said. "I’ve been golfing ever since I can remember. Dad pushes me a little. If he sees me sitting on the couch, he’ll tell me to go out and play golf. But he doesn’t push me too much. At the competition, some of the parents were too serious. I couldn’t imagine being in that situation."
The winners of the initial Drive, Putt and Chip regional events move on to the national finals at Augusta National Golf Club the Sunday before the Masters in April. The club and the U.S. Golf Association initiated the event this year to try to help grow junior golf.