Sometime late Sunday afternoon, one of the best golfers in the world will be standing over a putt on the 18th green at Augusta National with a prestigious title on the line.
It’s the kind of pressure few can truly understand.
But Katherine Schuster can.
The 14-year-old from Kill Devil Hills faced just such a situation last Sunday during golf’s annual Drive, Chip and Putt event. And she handled it like a champion.
Schuster stared down a 30-foot putt that would make the knees of even the most seasoned pro knock and rolled it in to secure her victory in the 14-15 girls division of the national youth competition.
“I was really fidgety. I couldn’t stand still while I was waiting for the other people to hit their shots,” the freshman at First Flight High School said. “But when my time came to play, I got into a zone and performed.
“It was pretty cool, because when I made that putt, I couldn’t see the crowd. I just saw the ball. I couldn’t hear anything. After I holed the putt, I knew there was a roar going on, but I couldn’t hear the roar. It was a really cool feeling.”
Schuster put herself in position to win with second-place finishes in both the driving and chipping portions of the event. She said she was confident in her chances since she considers putting the most consistent aspect of her game.
She won the putting competition in her first trip to the Drive, Chip and Putt experience two years ago. She was only third this time, but her successful lag on the second putt from 15 feet was all she needed to secure the overall championship.
Schuster was one of two junior players from North Carolina to win titles at this year’s Drive, Chip and Putt competition. Ella Jane Hannant of Pikeville in Wayne County, also came up big in the putting portion of the event to win the 7-9 girls championship.
“It’s very special and very humbling that I got to experience the same exact stage that the pros did in order to win,” Schuster said. “There was a lot of pressure.”
Ranked fourth among junior girls golfers in North Carolina, Schuster is no stranger to big moments and pressure putts.
In addition to her earlier Drive, Chip and Putt experience in Augusta, she also won the NCHSAA 1A/2A individual state championship last fall. As important as that victory might have been, it paled in comparison to earning a title on one of golf’s most storied stages.
“Not many people can say they had success at Augusta, especially at my age,” Schuster said. “State titles are amazing and humbling, but it’s Augusta National. To perform there and play there is just amazing. No words can describe it really.”
Schuster hopes to someday play and win championships on the LPGA tour. Winning at Augusta gave her a small taste of what that might be like. So did some of the company she got to keep.
Among those with whom she rubbed elbows are LPGA legends Annika Sorenstam and Nancy Lopez. She received her Drive, Chip and Putt championship trophy from 2013 Masters winner Adam Scott.
“That was really special,” said Schuster, who stayed in Augusta with her family for Monday’s practice round at the Masters. “I don’t think many people can say that.”