Sport - Golf - Maya Palanza Gaudin
Maya Palanza Gaudin (Centre) with Rory McIlroy, her parents, younger sister Rouda Willa and coach Yasin Ali (left) meet up at the Dubai Desert Classic at Emirates Golf Club earlier this year Image Credit: Supplied

Abu Dhabi’s Maya Palanza Gaudin will be playing in the 2023 National Finals of the Drive Chip and Putt tournament at Augusta on Sunday.

Maya turned 13 years old last week, boasts a handicap of 1.7 and is a member of Yas Links Abu Dhabi and Saadiyat Beach Golf Club, a member of the Emirates Golf Federation (EGF) as well as Sacconnesset Golf Club, her home course in the US.

Maya is far from ordinary and so is her story, after being adopted in Ethiopia she first came to the UAE 11 years ago and is at school at the US Performance Academy (USPA). She is coached by Yasin Ali at JA The Resort, Jebel Ali. Her parents also play golf, but, in their own words, consider themselves ‘novices.’

Met one of her idols, Rory McIlroy

Maya qualified for the National Finals through the US Kids North East Finals of the Drive, Chip and Putt at TPC Boston, US and will be competing in the 12-13 year-old Girls’ Division.

In 2022 Maya won first place in the US KIDS European Championship played in Scotland with a 54 hole score of four over par, with rounds of 72, 74 and 74. She also won the 2021 Yas Links Abu Dhabi Club Championship and the 2022 Sacconnesset Golf Club Championship.

Just recently at the DP World Tour's Dubai Desert Classic earlier this year, she got the chance to meet one of her idols, Rory McIlroy.

This Drive, Chip and Putt initiative is open to both Boys and Girls, aged 7 - 15 years of age and is held in the US and Canada.

The qualifying process involved 342 local competitions across all 50 states, followed by 60 sub-regional competitions and then narrowed down to 10 regional finals.

From there only one junior golfer in each age / gender section qualified for the National Finals at Augusta.

A dream come true

Maya talked about her love of golf, ‘The golf ball doesn’t care who you are, or where you were born. The golf ball doesn’t care how much money you may have or about what your father and grandfather did for a job. The golf ball doesn’t care about the colour of your skin, or how tall, skinny, heavy or popular you are. The golf ball doesn’t care about what school you go to. The golf ball only cares about one thing - and - only one thing: how you swing the club! That’s what I love about golf - it’s just about you and the golf ball.’

‘It will be a dream come true to visit Augusta and to compete in the Drive, Chip and Putt. I am excited to hit balls in a competition on Sunday.’

Not only will Maya be playing on Sunday, she will also be staying to watch The Masters week.