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Golf Australia Express : GA Express 281
A TRADITION LIKE NO OTHER W E’LL hear ad nauseum this coming week about various Masters traditions but there is one custom at the year’s first major which is to be forever applauded: the inclusion of amateurs in the field. There are six guaranteed places reserved for non-professionals at Augusta each year – rich reward for achievement in various elite events – and at the event started by the greatest amateur of all Bobby Jones, the non pay-for-play participants are far from an afterthought. While amateurs regularly qualify for both the Open Championship and US Open, nowhere are they revered as they are in Georgia during the first full week of April. Atop the iconic Augusta National clubhouse sits the Crow’s Nest, a mystical space reserved only for the special few. The Crow’s Nest is off limits to all but the amateurs in the field and the housekeeping staff, even former champions are not allowed in. Accessed by a flight of stairs concealed behind a secret door in a passage hidden behind a small booth marked ‘TELEPHONE’, staying at the Crow’s Nest is, by all accounts, truly a special experience. The accommodations give the week a fantasy land feel but it is the opportunity to play the course, and the tournament, that is the real reward. For aspiring professionals there can be no better opportunity than to test their games against a field of the very best at a venue revered the world over. The experience is a formative one for many, nine golfers graduating from their week in the Crow’s Nest to eventually win a green jacket in later years. 2017 champion Sergio Garcia is among that number, having earned his berth in 1999 courtesy of his victory in the British Amateur the year before. Also in that group is Tiger Woods, twice an amateur contestant before capturing his historic first green jacket in 1997. Ben Crenshaw, Jack Nicklaus, Phil Mickelson, Tommy Aaron, Tom Watson and Craig Stadler have also achieved the feat. After his first stay in 1995, Woods wrote a heartfelt letter to the Augusta National membership which no doubt sums up the feelings of many who have spent the week in the Crow’s Nest. “Please accept my sincere thanks for providing me the opportunity to experience the most wonderful week of my life,” he wrote. “It was fantasyland and Disney World wrapped into one.” Woods goes on to note: “I’ve accomplished much here and learned even more. Your tournament will always hold a special spot in my heart as the place where I made my first PGA cut and at a major yet! “It is here that I left my youth behind and became a man. For that I will be eternally in your debt.” The six amateur places in the field are awarded to the US Amateur champion (Doc Redman) and runner-up (Dough Ghim). The winner of the British Amateur (Harry Ellis) also qualifies as do the winners of the Asia Pacific (Yuxin Lin) and Latin America Amateur Championships (Joaquin Niemann). Matt Parziale, a firefighter from Boston, is the final amateur in the field courtesy of his win in the US Mid-Amateur Championship. Ranging in age from 17 (Lin) to 30 (Parziale) and hailing from all corners of the globe, this year’s amateurs, as they always do, will add colour to the smallest field in major championship golf. And they will continue a tradition that, while just one of many at Augusta National, might be the most important. VIEW MASTERS ROD MORRI is an award-winning writer and podcast presenter. He hosts The iseekgolf.com Podcast weekly. CLICK here to listen. The Crow’s Nest consists of one room with partitions that create three cubicles with one bed each.
GA Express 280
GA Express 282