Luke Parsons has played his way onto Augusta National.
The 8-year-old prodigy from Salley, S.C., won the boys 7-9 division in a Drive, Chip and Putt regional qualifier Sunday at Pinehurst, N.C.
Parsons won the 2015 U.S. Kids World Championship for boys 6 and under and earlier this summer added the IMG World Championship in San Diego.
After his U.S. Kids win, signs were posted at the town limits to celebrate Salley’s native son. Back then, he said his top two goals were to win the Masters and be ranked No. 1 in the world.
Competing in the finals in Augusta will bring him a step closer to the first one.
“It will help me visualize what it will be like,” he said.
He was “excited and nervous” in Pinehurst, especially before his first event, the drive. But then the hours of practice and past experience dealing with tournament pressure kicked in, and “I smoked it,” Luke said.
The Pinehurst field included 96 young golfers, 12 in each of four age categories for boys and girls, with the winners earning berths in the national finals at Augusta National on April 1, the Sunday before the 2018 Masters Tournament.
Luke practices about 4½ hours a day and hits drives about 200 yards with specially made and sized Ping clubs. He plays about 60 tournaments a year.
Golf is a family affair for the Parsons. Luke’s older brother, 9-year-old Hunter, has come within one step of qualifying for the Drive, Chip and Putt National Finals. Dad caddies for Luke and mom Sueh Parsons caddies for Hunter and home-schools the boys during their busy tournament schedule.
Luke works a lot with Mike Carlisle, the golf coach at the University of South Carolina Aiken, who suggested the youngster model his game after Aiken native and pro Kevin Kisner, and Rivers Johnson at Sweetwater Country Club in Barnwell.