09 April 2019: Hope springs anew as the cold winter makes way for the pleasant and colourful dash of colours here in the southern woods of the United States. There is a nice drizzle working to soften the course even as the players work on their tricks ahead of the 83rd Masters. Among those riding that hope are young amateurs who have earned their ticket to the Masters by winning around the world.
As much as Bobby Jones may have loved the idea of seeing an amateur come up trumps at Augusta, it is safe to say that the chances of an amateur golfer donning the Green Jacket are next to none.
21-year-old Viktor Hovland is a Norwegian studying at Oklahoma State. Viktor is the reigning U.S. Amateur champion and has three college wins this season. He is the world’s No. 2 amateur who finished T40 at Bay Hill in March. There is a good chance he will contend for low amateur honours this Sunday afternoon.
Devon Bling, just 19, is the baby bear this week. The UCLA sophomore is in Augusta flying on a runner-up finish at the 2018 U.S. Amateur.
Alvaro Ortiz graduated from Arkansas last year before winning the Latin America Amateur Championship. The young man is due to turn professional soon, but all of that can wait till he competes this week at Augusta.
The 23-year-old played a practice round yesterday with 2017 Masters Champion Sergio Garcia. Expect him to have chewed on the Spaniard’s brains for some useful tips about dealing with the challenge this week.
Auburn Junior Jovan Rebula became the first South African in 52 years to win the British Amateurs. The sensational victory gave the 21-year-old a shot at fulfilling his wildest dreams of being at Augusta National. Rebula has rich veins of golf running in the family – he is a nephew of Ernie Els.
An unlikely amateur is Kevin O’Connell, the 30-year-old is a born again amateur. He was considering going back to a pro-career when he won the US Mid Amateur to punch his ticket to the Masters and the US Open. Plans are on hold for now, but he will hope that the experience of playing the two majors before he returns to being a professional.
20-year-old Takumi Kanaya came through a fine victory at the Asia-Pacific Amateur. The young man reached Augusta last weekend and took in a quick lesson on the course from his friend and compatriot Hideki Matsuyama, who finished 5th in the 2015 edition.
“I have played two days with Hideki here, and he’s taught me many things,” Kanaya told reporters alongside Ortiz when the two men met the media after their practice rounds.
“You know, don’t hit it here, or hit it here and there will be a slope that will bring the ball back here. So he’s taught me a lot about the golf course.”
Kanaya could become just the seventh non-American to emerge the best amateur this week and emulate the feat of Matsuyama, who took the honour in 2011.