Amateurs Part of Augusta’s History
We are far too easily derailed by the term “amateur” these days. It just refers to an individual who does it for the love of the art, regardless of what that art is. In golf, we are mistaken to think that amateurs don’t play good golf, even in a professional environment.
The folks at Augusta might be a little slow with women. They took a little extra time in dragging themselves into the twentieth century in terms of racial diversity, but when it comes to the treatment of amateurs, nobody does it better. The Masters Tournament at Augusta is the pinnacle of respect when it comes to the ones who do something else during the weekdays.
That is no wonder, for they understand their history very well Bobby Jones was the ultimate amateur, before playing as a professional was necessarily the smartest way to go. He won everything in sight several times, and the mechanics of his swing are universally admired to this day.
Augusta, therefore, has issued invitations to the Masters for winners and runners-up for specific tournaments, that include the British Amateur, the Asian Amateur, the United States Mid-Amateur and the U.S. Public Links.
Patrick Cantlay will be there. Don’t know him yet? He’s a 20 year-old phenom sophomore at UCLA, and is very highly ranked among the new amateurs.
Kelly Kraft, the golfer who beat Cantlay in the U.S. Amateur last year, will certainly be there. He won four amateur titles last year
Bryden MchPherson, an Aussie representing the University of Georgia, ready for his first Masters, after which he and Kraft intend to turn pro.
The American field will be rounded out by Corbin Mills, a standout at Clemson University.
Tradition counts for amateurs, too. Hidecki Matsuyama from Japan, last year’s low amateur at the Masters, and the only one to make the cut, returns for a second shot. His home was all but destroyed by last year’s tsunami, and it was a blessing that he could even attend.
Varying age groups will be represented. On the older end, Randal Lewis, who was invited for winning the Mid-Amateur Championship will tee off as the oldest first-timer, at 54. Perhaps a very young person wouldn’t have the same appreciation for a Masters invitation as someone who has watched it all his life, and dreamed of playing in it for decades. For Lewis, it’s turned into Hall of Fame month, as the financial adviser from Alma, Michigan, rubs shoulders with Nicklaus (for whom he and his wife named their son), and played rounds with Tom Watson and Phil Mickelson, just by writing a letter. My dad was right – you can’t guarantee what life will say, but you can ask it anything you want. Here’s hoping that Mr. Lewis plays the rounds of his life – oh, and an ace on 16 would be very nice.
At the absurdly younger end, the young man described by Tiger Woods as the future is here, Tianlang Guan, of China. He can’t vote, drive or go to high school, but he’s here anyway after winning the Asian Amateur Pacific Championship. He’s 14 years and 4 months old, only drives the ball 250, but by all accounts, has a short game that is nothing short of surgical. After this Masters, he can look forward to many more, and the eighth grade.
Guan has a practice round with Tom Watson (what I wouldn’t give for that), and Woods thinks he might make the cut – “He’s so consistent…he was hitting a lot of hybrids into the holes yesterday, hitting them spot on, right on the numbers. He knew what he was doing.”
Guan isn’t the only amateur to play a major at such an early age, but the last time it happened was the 1865 British Open, with 14 year-old Tom Morris. We didn’t notice, being involved in the Civil War at the time.
So, that’s the lesson for today. Never wave someone off with the condescending remark of “Amateur!” It just means they love to play golf, regardless of the future plans they might harbor.