Liam Hartling and Isabella Saenz

Junior Standouts

Two young ClubCorp golfers grabbed the national spotlight at this year’s Drive, Chip & Putt Championship

BY TOM MACKIN | PHOTOGRAPHY BY GETTY IMAGES

At Augusta National Golf Club prior to the 2017 Masters, Liam Hartling snagged top honors in the Boys 10-11 division and Isabella Saenz finished 10th in the Girls 12-13 division. Here, a look at the skills and fortitude that got them there.

LIAM HARTLING
Age: 10
Home club: Canyon Crest Country Club, Riverside, Calif.
Member since: 2014
Picked up his first club: 1-1/2 years old
School status: Fifth grade
Low scores: 38 for nine holes; 82 for 18 holes
Instructor: Mike Drake, head golf professional, Canyon Crest Country Club

Championship prep work: "We found putts and chips around our course that played similarly to what they used in previous finals at Augusta National," Drake says. "As we got closer to the competition, there was an increased focus on simulating competition by trying to get Liam used to hitting shots under pressure."

What makes Liam special: "We hosted a U.S. Kids Championship event last September, and Liam was in a playoff in his age division," Drake says. "He ended up winning the playoff with a birdie. As we walked back in, he explained that he does not understand why everyone is so nervous in playoffs because playoffs just mean we get to play more golf! Liam and the Hartling family are everything a head pro could ask for in a family of members."

Liam's souvenirs from Augusta National: He took home a Masters bucket hat and a single pine needle he picked up from the 13th hole while watching the Monday practice round.

Who Liam met at Augusta: "Fred Couples [1992 Masters champion] handed me the winning trophy," Liam says. "He told me I did a good job. But the funny thing was that I struggled to hold the trophy, so he helped me. That was easy for him since he has held many more trophies than I have."

Favorite pro golfer: "Phil Mickelson because he's a lefty like me," Liam says. "He also hits it all over the place, and I like to watch him recover from those shots."

Liam's golf goals: "I want to make it onto the Redlands High School golf team, then play in college, and hopefully on the PGA Tour."


ISABELLA SAENZ

Age: 12
Home club: The Clubs of Kingwood, Kingwood, Texas
Member since: 2006
Started playing golf: 5 years old
School status: Sixth grade
Low score: 36 for nine holes
Instructor: Lori Tatum, Class A LPGA instructor, the Clubs of Kingwood Golf Advantage School

Championship prep work: "We worked on hitting specific landing zones with her chips and getting her speed right on putts," Tatum says. "Then we tuned up her full swing by starting with the wedge and going through the entire bag, including the driver."

What makes Isabella special: "The sky is the limit for her. She can do whatever she puts her mind to. She'll take her game as far as she wants to go. She's very goal-oriented and her work ethic is very strong," Tatum says. "The game brings out her mental toughness and she perseveres, making her a better player. I would not be surprised at all to see Isabella and her older sister, Ariana, play together on the LPGA Tour some day."

Isabella's souvenirs from Augusta National: "Too many!" Isabella says. "A chair, umbrella, golf towel, poster, caps, sweater, and a lunch bag."

Who Isabella met at Augusta: Billy Payne, chairman of Augusta National Golf Club; and LPGA greats Annika Sorenstam and Nancy Lopez.

Favorite pro golfer: "Stacy Lewis is my favorite player on the LPGA Tour because of the adversity she has overcome from being diagnosed with scoliosis at a young age," Isabella says. "I enjoy watching her on the final day of tournaments and how she always makes her way to the top 10 when it's not expected. I also admire her focus and confidence on the golf course."

Isabella's golf goals: "I hope to play on the LPGA one day!"

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