Abbey Daniel is your typical, bubbly 14-year-old girl.
When she’s not playing golf or volleyball, she’s checking out Netflix for the latest episode of “The Walking Dead” or listening to Jason Aldean or Luke Bryan on her headphones.
Ask her about getting to compete Sunday in the secondannual Drive, Chip & Putt Championship at Augusta National Golf Club, the Archbishop Hannan eighth-grader will say she’s excited about that, but what she’s really eager to do is to meet PGA Tour phenomJordan Spieth.
Then she lets out a little giggle.
A potential celebrity encounter aside, what Daniel has on her agenda first is some fairly significant history.
No youth golfers from Louisiana made it to last year’s Drive, Chip & Putt final. Since Augusta National doesn’t host a tournament besides the Masters, boasting a field only of men, Daniel will by all accounts be the first female golfer from Louisiana ever to take part in an official competition at the legendary club.
Daniel doesn’t get caught up in all that. Trying to excel in Sunday’s final, which will be televised starting at 7 a.m. on the Golf Channel, is enough to focus on.
“I’ve given it some thought that I am the first from Louisiana to make it into this competition,” said Daniel, a 4.0 student, “but not that there haven’t been any events (for women) held at Augusta.”
It’s an arduous three-step qualifying process to reach the Drive, Chip & Putt final, a journey Daniel almost didn’t begin at all.
On Feb. 15, 2014, Daniel was playing in a volleyball tournament in Lafayette. A friend dared her to jump off a 10-foot platform in the gym where they were playing.
She jumped. “It didn’t end well,” she said softly.
Daniel broke her right arm in four places, including in her elbow and wrist, and tore her brachial artery, the major blood vessel for the upper arm. Because of that, medical personnel couldn’t find a pulse in her wrist.
“She broke it about as bad as you can break it,” said Abbey’s mother, Dr. Kay Daniel.
“I think I cried more at the thought of not playing golf or sports again than the pain at that moment,” Abbey said. “It set in once things snowballed from a broken wrist to a broken elbow to no pulse in my wrist to flying in a helicopter.”
Daniel was airlifted to Children’s Hospital in New Orleans, where she underwent a graft for her artery from a nearby vein and had three screws placed in her elbow.
“I was in shock,” said Rob Noel, Daniel’s teaching professional who runs a golf academy at Money Hill Golf and Country Club in Abita Springs. “But she came through. It was like in no time. It was only six or eight weeks she was out, and then she was back at it. I couldn’t believe it.”
The injury happened just 4½ months before Daniel was to compete in her Drive, Chip & Putt local qualifier July 2 at The Island in Plaquemine. She won there, then won a subregional in Jackson, Mississippi, and finally a regional at TPC Sugarloaf near Atlanta to advance to Sunday’s final at Augusta.
“I don’t see any resemblance of her being injured as far as her golf game goes,” Noel said. “We didn’t have to make any adjustments because of it.”
The Daniels are a big golfing family. Kay Daniel, a New Orleans area orthodontist, played at Mississippi State and has won the Louisiana Women’s Amateur and Women’s Mid-Amateur.
Her husband, Chuck, a retired attorney now coaching junior-varsity basketball at Hannan, played baseball at State. Abbey’s older brother Nick, a sophomore at Hannan, is on the boys golf team.
For all of them, Sunday’s event will be their first trip to Augusta National after years of watching the Masters on TV.
“It’s been on my bucket list to go,” said Chuck Daniel, who will be in the competition area with Abbey. “To finally be able to go and have a child competing there is pretty phenomenal. I didn’t foresee that — especially with her injury. I’m just happy she could play golf or do anything again.”
The Drive, Chip & Putt Championship is divided into boys and girls divisions and by age: 7-9, 10-11, 12-13, 14-15. There are 10 girls finalists in Daniel’s age group.
Competitors will hit drives and chips at Augusta National’s practice facility, then putt on the main course’s 18th green. The champion will be determined from their combined scores.
The family also got tickets from Augusta National to Monday’s practice round where, hopefully for Abbey, there will be a Jordan Spieth sighting.
Follow Scott Rabalais on Twitter: @RabalaisAdv.