DIAMONDHEAD, Miss. (WLOX) - A little over a year ago, Karstyn Altese of Diamondhead was preparing for the Drive, Chip, and Putt national finals at Augusta National.
Then, the pandemic stopped everything, leaving her uncertain if she’d ever get another chance to roam golf’s most hallowed grounds.
“I didn’t know if it was just all gone away. I was like, ‘I made it this far, I hope I can still go,’” said Karstyn.
Now, the 12-year-old is once again preparing for the Drive, Chip & Putt finals, a junior golf competition featuring some of the country’s greatest young talent.
Because she qualified for last year’s canceled event, her spot in this year’s was already waiting for her, giving her an extra 12 months to sharpen her skills on the course, especially during the height of the pandemic.
“It was my escape,” said Karstyn. “I went out there with my sister, and I practiced as much as I could with my putting, mainly 15-30 foot putts so I could be ready for Augusta.”
Any golfer knows that often the biggest challenge on the course is the mental aspect of the game. Because she’s had so long to prepare, Karstyn says the sleepless nights of nerves haven’t arrived yet.
“I definitely think that those are coming,” she said. “I have had a dream about it, actually.”
While it may still just be a dream right now, next week it will become a reality, and one that was well worth the wait.
“I’ve just really taken the time to practice. This time, I feel ready. I’m just so grateful to have this opportunity,” said Karstyn. “Usually, I only get to see it on TV. This time, I get to meet the pros and go inside the clubhouse. It’s just going to be awesome.”
Karstyn has been playing since she was three with a handicap of 4.8 hole and a scoring average of 38. Karstyn plays with the U.S. Kids Gulf Coast Local Tour and placed U.S. Kids Golf World Championship in 2018 at Pinehurst. She credits her dad and grandfather, both pros, for introducing her to golf at an early age.
The Drive, Chip & Putt tournament kicks off April 4. Karstyn will be competing in the 10-11 year old division for the South Central region.