AUGUSTA, Ga. - No matter where Sean Haselton's golf career takes him, it will have to go a long way to surpass Sunday. The 13-year-old from Sayville did hit a 245-yard drive under pressure, which was gratifying, but it wasn't the greatest measure. He got to see "HASELTON" near the top of one of the official leader boards at Augusta National Golf Club.
"It was cool. It was a really great experience," he said after finishing seventh in the boys' 12-13 final of the inaugural Drive, Chip and Putt competition.
Officials of the Masters, which begins here on Thursday, and the PGA of America and U.S. Golf Association, designed the contest -- inspired by the NFL's Punt, Pass and Kick tradition -- to pique interest in youth golf. Those organizers said the buzz around the course Sunday vastly exceeded their expectations.
Bubba Watson, the 2012 Masters champion, was so pumped by watching the early going on Golf Channel that he came to the course. "My wife dropped me off early," he told Golf Channel. "Being here in person, seeing the smiles on their faces and watching their parents walk with them is a dream."
Among those whom Watson personally greeted was Haselton. "It was awesome," said the eighth-grader who plays for the Sayville High School varsity. "He said, 'Good luck on your next event.' " While he was practicing and competing, Haselton saw former Masters champions Zach Johnson and Mark O'Meara and current phenom Jordan Spieth.
What impressed him even more was the atmosphere. "The course was really, really nice. You see it on TV, but it's even better in real life," said the teen who drove down here with his parents and three siblings.
It was not a surprise that chipping and putting were a challenge for the lone Long Islander in the contest because those were the things that were hard to practice during a severe winter. He did place second in the driving part, though.
That came after a dinner for all the participants Saturday night, at which the Haseltons met former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, an Augusta National member, and Tom O'Toole, new president of the USGA. Sunday, Sean got national television exposure.
"I think it will help me the next time I'm in a pressure situation," he said. "It was a good experience."