3 THINGS
Calendar Turns to April, Golf April 1, 2019 | Liberty Corner, N.J. By Scott Lipsky, USGA

2018 USA Curtis Cup Team competitor Jennifer Kupcho is competing in this week's Augusta National Women's Amateur. (USGA/Steven Gibbons)

From endless college basketball to the just-concluded WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play Championship, brackets dominated the conversation in March. Kevin Kisner captured the title at Austin (Texas) Country Club on Sunday, one year after finishing as the runner-up, while Matt Kuchar and Tiger Woods showed off the match-play chops that earned them U.S. Amateur titles more than two decades ago with deep runs of their own.

With the calendar turned to April and the weather finally thawing, golf is ready to take center stage (and really, isn’t that where it should be?). Here are three ways that is happening this week, from the elite levels of the game to the recreational variety.

Active Handicap Season is Here

Spring officially arrived last week, and many golfers around the country are putting their clubs to use for the first time in months. Starting Monday, scores can be posted in 48 states for handicap purposes. In 17 states, active handicap season begins April 1, while many others either began in March or run year-round. It begins in Maine, Vermont and upstate New York on April 15. You can find the nationwide active/inactive schedule here.

If you’ve been working on your swing all winter, eager to lower your Handicap Index, but have been limited to practicing indoors, it’s time to get out there! If you’ve been getting in a few rounds between snow storms, remember, your scores will count going forward. And if you’ve pledged to finally get a handicap this year, there’s no better time than now. Simply find a facility near you that issues them. Uncertain about how the USGA Handicap System works? Here are answers to some FAQs to get you on your way.

Top Juniors Ready for Drive, Chip and Putt Finals

The attention of the golf world will turn to Augusta National Golf Club the second week of April for the Masters Tournament. The future of the game, however, will be arriving in north Georgia a few days earlier. On Sunday, April 7, 80 junior golfers from the ages of 7-15 will give it their best shot in the National Finals of the Drive, Chip and Putt Championship. A collaborative effort of the USGA, PGA of America, and Augusta National, the competition began with nearly 300 local qualifiers and tens of thousands of participants, before narrowing it down to this group, who come from 27 states, Canada and France.

Each competitor compiles points by hitting three drives, three chips and three putts, with the putting portion of the National Finals taking place on the green of Augusta National’s famed 18th hole.

Many of the top players in junior golf have advanced to the National Finals. Both 2018 U.S. Junior Amateur finalists, champion Michael Thorbjornsen and runner-up Akshay Bhatia, have competed at Augusta National, as well as 2018 U.S. Girls’ Junior runner-up Alexa Pano and 2018 USA Curtis Cup Team member Lucy Li.

Live coverage of the National Finals can be found on Golf Channel and at drivechipandputt.com on Sunday starting at 8 a.m. EDT.

Qualifying for the 2020 championship takes place in every state and starts in May. Registration is free and is in full swing.

Big Week for Women’s Golf

The best women’s golfers in the world, professional and amateur, will be looking to capture memories that could last them a lifetime. On Thursday, the ANA Inspiration, the first major event of the year, begins at Mission Hills Country Club, in Rancho Mirage, Calif., where the competitors will be vying to take a jump into “Poppy’s Pond” on Sunday evening.

On the other side of the country, 72 of the game’s top amateurs will make history when they play in the inaugural Augusta National Women’s Amateur. The field, which includes 2017 U.S. Girls’ Junior champion Erica Shepherd, 2018 USA Curtis Cup Team members Jennifer Kupcho and Andrea Lee, and U.S. Women’s Amateur Four-Ball champions Alice Chen (2017) and Kaitlyn Papp (2016), will play two rounds at Champions Retreat Golf Club, and those who make the cut will play the final round on Saturday at Augusta National Golf Club. The champion receives exemptions into the 2019 U.S. Women's Open at the Country Club of Charleston (S.C.) and 2019 U.S. Women's Amateur at Old Waverly Golf Club in West Point, Miss.

Scott Lipsky is the senior manager of content for the USGA. Email him at slipsky@usga.org.