Vienna girl knocking on Augusta’s door

VIENNA – Anna Earl has discovered an avenue where she can succeed.

The 10-year-old from Vienna is one step away from advancing to the National Drive, Chip and Putt Championship scheduled for next spring at Augusta National Golf Club. She will compete in one of 10 regional sites across the country Saturday at Prestwick Golf Club in Highland Township, Mich. The winner in each age division advances.

“The last few days, we are starting to get nervous,” said her father, Michael Earl. “I told her she knows what to do, and to go out and have fun.”

Regardless of Saturday’s outcome, Anna Earl has made quite an impression on not only her parents but also her fellow students at Greenmont Elementary and her home club at Minibel. She has not let the fact that she was diagnosed with Cerebral palsy diminish her passion for the game of golf.

“A lot of nights after practicing at Minibel, she has pain in her legs,” Michael Earl said. “But she will tell me we have to practice so we can keep moving on. It’s amazing the see the difference in her as far as being positive and committed to something.

“My wife Michelle and I always felt like we wanted to enter Anna in all the sports. She is on a swim team, but she has never went to a single meet. She says she always finishes last and it doesn’t make her happy.”

Not the case where golf is concerned. At each level of competition, she wears an orange shirt, orange belt and orange shoes because she has seen PGA professional Rickie Fowler dress in a similar ensemble.

“That’s her favorite golfer,” her father said.

Anna Earl is the first to say that putting is her strongest suit. She is proud to explain that every one of her putts usually fall in the cup.

At a subregion hosted by Westfield Country Club in Westfield Center, Ohio, Anna Earl finished second in her age group in both chipping and putting. The top three girls in each age division qualified for regionals and Earl took runner-up.

“She first picked up a club two years ago as part of the First Tee Program, and this past summer we played a couple of times a week,” Michael Earl said. “She was having fun with it and wanted to go more. When competition ramped up, we would practice every night. Some days we had good practices and some days we didn’t.”

This year, Anna received her first set of golf clubs. And of course, orange is predominant with the golf bag.

“Golf seems to be the thing that is working,” Michael Earl said. “It’s amazing because some nights she can barely walk. But she will go down there and practice for about an hour to an hour and a half.”

A total of 88 junior golfers competed at this year’s inaugural event of the Drive, Pitch and Putt National Finals.

“In prepping Anna for Saturday, I told her I didn’t know how it would work out,” Michael Earl said. “I told her maybe we can just compete and not turn our card in and just leave because I am just proud of her.”