The Open and The Masters are most golfers favourite majors, but an invite to the latter is probably more coveted by the game’s leading amateurs. For starters, most will walk the hallowed MacKenzie design for the first time. Many leading amateurs, especially Europeans, will have played the majority of the Open rota’s layouts, but getting on at Augusta is another story.
And then there’s the digs. Amateurs reside in the Crow’s Nest for their stay in Georgia, located in the clubhouse, just a wedge from the first hole. It’s a rite of passage. The best players in the world have bedded down there over the years, long before they became household names.
Six amateurs have been stewing over their first tee shot after the Masters was delayed from April to November due to Covid-19. That’s a long time to ruminate. While they haven’t a hope of winning, the amateur with the best score picks up the leading amateur medal, significantly elevating his brand immediately – and as Bryson will tell you, that’s what this shindig is all about.
Just 18 years old, Gallegos grew up in Veinticinco De Mayo, home to 25,000 and one golf course - Las Mulitas (Little Mules). He isn’t your typical Masters amateur. His trophy cabinet is not overrun with illustrious amateur titles – but like getting your first win on the Old Course at St Andrews, he stepped up at the right time. The 6 foot 3 inch youngster won the Latin American Amateur Championship with a final round 4-under 67 after admitting to interrupted sleep on Saturday night due to nerves. That win earned him a ticket to the Masters and the Open. "I think I’m in a dream," he said. It’s a whole lot better than that, Abel.
This left-handed Beijing bomber will be looking to improve on his 2018 outing after rounds of 80-79 at Augusta as a 17-year-old. He won’t be fazed by the pomp and circumstance – heck, he played in his first pro event at 13. Following an impressive opening season for USC, the now 20-year-old earned his spot after capturing the Asia-Pacific Amateur for the second time.
Michel is not your usual Country Club type. His father escaped from communist Czechoslovakia, making his way to Australia where he settled. Michel practiced with one club until he was eight, later spending his $100 pocket money on a set, which he got rather good with. He went on to gain a Masters degree in engineering while mastering the game of golf, then earned a spot at the Masters after becoming the first foreigner to win the US Mid-Am. That victory also afforded him a spot at the US Open at Winged Foot, where he missed the cut by 11 strokes.
Ogltree is delaying becoming a pro in order to play the Masters as an amateur. It’s like the night before Christmas, if your Christmas Eve involves debauched partying with a limo-load of Victoria's Secret models. As if teeing it up at Augusta isn’t enough, he’ll be joining Tiger Woods around the Georgia layout, albeit without the circus that usually comes with such a pairing. “I don’t know how much we’ll talk and how much interaction we’ll have, but just to play, that’s good enough for me," Ogletree said. The 22-year-old American won the 2019 US Amateur at Pinehurst to gain his Masters invite, and has played four PGA Tour events since, missing the cut in all of them.
Augenstein expected to have turned pro and be earning his stripes on Tour by now. Covid-19 altered that plan. Instead, he has morphed into a cash cow for Vanderbilt after staying on as a fifth-year senior, winning the SEC player of the year in 2019. He’s somewhat of a BNOC (big name on campus). The 22-year-old lost the US Amateur final to Ogletree, and will be looking to better his outing at the US Open, which was his first major outing.
Touted as Ireland’s next star, James Sugrue won the 2019 British Amateur at Portmarnock to get his invite. The 23-year-old from Mallow, Co Cork, is eyeing up the leading amateur medal, which would look great in his aunt’s furniture shop, where he works when he's not on the course.