'The Short Game': Netflix documentary female stars are helping to change golf

    THE SHORT GAME, (from left): Alexa Pano, Allan Kournikova, 2013. ©Samuel Goldwyn Films/Courtesy Everett Collection

    (CNN)"How you like me now?" say eight sassy golf whiz kids into the camera, accompanied by the catchy tune of the same name in the Netflix documentary, "The Short Game."

    The year is 2012 and the stars of the show are 1,500 seven and eight-year-old golf prodigies representing 60 different countries, all vying for a chance to become a U.S. Kids World Champion at the daunting Pinehurst course.
    Of the eight we meet up close, three are young girls, of whom two come first. Not that it's all about winning; it's a raucously fun movie designed to get kids into golf. It's stressful watching though -- the parent-child relationship shown in microscopic detail.
      When it was released in 2013, Augusta National had only just accepted its first two female members the previous year in former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and financier and philanthropist Darla Moore.
        Yet with the birth of two tournaments at Augusta before the Masters in April -- the Drive, Chip and Putt inaugurated in 2014 and the Augusta National Women's Amateur (ANWA) -- the game is clearly diversifying.
        Junior golfers (age six to 17) in the US now total more than three million with more than one million girls, rising from 25% of the total in 2010 to 34% last year, according to the National Golf Foundation.
        Pano stands atop the podium after winning the Regional Finals Girls 7-9 section of the Drive, Chip and Putt competition.
        On a similar upward curve are Californian Amari Avery and Floridian Alexa Pano, now aged 17 and 16, who won at Pinehurst in their respective USK categories back in 2012. Nine years later, both made the 82-player ANWA field.
          "I want to be the first woman to play a tournament at Augusta. Girls are just as good as boys," says a measured Pano when we first meet her in the Netflix documentary -- the girl who is filmed practicing in the rain then shivering because she's freezing.
          She's the last to leave the range.
          Avery is filmed doing push-ups and sit-ups with her dad Andre and sister Alona for company. She's now heading to the University of Southern California next year on a golf scholarship and knows the meaning of hard yards.
          "You can be a child prodigy and have all the talent in the world, but it won't get you anywhere if you don't put in the work," she told CNN Sport over the phone before winning the inaugural Mack Champ Invitational in Houston in March, an event set up by PGA Tour star Cameron Champ for the game's best junior golfers from diverse backgrounds.
          "I've not had to live up to any expectations. I'm my own person away from 'The Short Game.' I loved being in it, but I want to be spoken about for winning a big tournament."
          Although neither player made the Saturday finale at Augusta in the 54-hole event -- the first two rounds take place at nearby Champions Retreat before a practice round for all competitors at Augusta on the Friday -- they have time on their side.
          Pano, the youngest competitor this year, just as she was in 2019 when she also missed the cut, has added motivation to return next year.