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LI's Jennifer Rosenberg has eyes on Augusta National

Jennifer Rosenberg, 15, practices her swing at Glen

Jennifer Rosenberg, 15, practices her swing at Glen Oaks Country Club on Wednesday, Oct. 22, 2014. Photo Credit: Richard T. Slattery

When they began a nationwide youth contest last year, American golf's major powers dreamed that someday a youngster would be sitting at home, watching the competition among the azaleas, magnolias and green jackets and decide that they would like to sign up.

Someday came really quickly. Jennifer Rosenberg was watching the inaugural Drive, Chip and Putt finals from Augusta National last April when Robin, her mother, heard the announcers give the website for the 2014 event. "I literally got up, went to the computer and registered her," Robin said.

The rest was up to Jennifer, now 15 and a sophomore at Cold Spring Harbor High School. She won three rounds of local and regional competition, including the final at Bethpage Green. So she will be among those on national TV from Augusta next April, on the eve of Masters week.

She received a formal invitation last week, the same way that every golfer who plays in the Masters every year gets one. She also learned that she and her family will get a free hotel room, transportation and practice-round tickets to the world's most prestigious tournament.

"It's awesome, I never knew I could get there. I'm so shocked that I'm going," she said. "I watch the Masters every year with my family. With the pressure, I'm nervous, but I'm excited to feel it at Augusta, where I watch all the professionals play every year. To step on the same grass as them is going to be a great feeling."

The Drive, Chip and Putt -- golf's answer to the NFL's long-running Punt, Pass and Kick competition -- is a collaborative effort among the Masters, PGA of America and the U.S. Golf Association. But the real appeal of it is the fact the final is held at Augusta, with the climactic putting contest held on the National's 18th green.

"The course is the greatest course. It's like perfect everywhere," Rosenberg said. "I'm excited to see that."

Bubba Watson, watching on TV from his rental home in Augusta the Sunday before the Masters last year, was so moved that he insisted his wife drop him off at the course so he could watch in person. Among the young golfers he met was Sean Haselton of Sayville. Maybe it was karma, but one week later, Watson was putting on a green jacket as the Masters champion. In that role, he will be handing out the Drive, Chip and Putt trophies this coming year.

Time will tell if the program meets its true goal: getting more young people interested in golf. Those who reach the finals are deeply involved already.

Rosenberg has won many local junior tournaments and is a two-time women's club champion at Glen Oaks Club in Old Westbury.

She was an ardent golfer before she began middle school, what with her dad, Barry, bringing Jennifer and her older brother Jack along almost every weekend. She received many lessons from her grandfather, Morty Howard, a seven-time club champion at Fresh Meadow Country Club (at least one title in every decade from the 1950s through the 1990s).

"As time went on, she started to swing gracefully. When she started to grow a little bit, I noticed she had unusual length for her age," said Howard, who has played in six U.S. Amateurs and two British Amateurs. He never played in the Masters, but he sure will enjoy the trip in 2015.

"This is more gratifying, to impart something you learned to another generation," he said.

During the winter, Jennifer will practice on the indoor golf simulators in Syosset. As always, she will putt on a makeshift surface in her basement. And she will get pumped. The whole family will.

"We live and breathe golf," her mother said. "This is what we do. It's on our television all the time. We can't even believe we're going."

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