USGA Amateurs Come Up Short Of Cutline In 2010 Masters
British Amateur champion Matteo Manassero, 16, however, becomes youngest ever to play weekend at Augusta National
U.S. Amateur runner-up Ben Martin (right), who missed the cut at last year's U.S. Open at Bethpage Black, came up eight strokes shy of playing the weekend at the 2010 Masters. (Steven Gibbons/USGA)
April 9, 2010
Augusta, Ga. – Brad Benjamin had a hard time keeping himself composed after he closed out his second round in the 74th Masters Tournament. The reigning U.S. Amateur Public Links champion couldn’t keep the tears from flowing, showing just how much it means for amateur players to compete at golf’s cathedral, Augusta National Golf Club.
“I’m not going to be able to talk,” said the 23-year-old Benjamin, his voice cracking after he shot a 5-over-par 77 Friday afternoon and missed the cut by three shots at 6-over 150. The 2009 Memphis University graduate stepped away, and then spent a few minutes hugging family and friends before he could gather himself to talk with the media.
Even then, there were still more tears. “It was the most fun [week] in my life; that’s why I’m so emotional,” he said. “I’m wishing it didn’t have to end.”
But the end came nonetheless for Benjamin and the other three United States Golf Association amateurs who received Masters invitations. U.S. Mid-Amateur champion Nathan Smith hovered around the cutline all day, but his 75-149 was two shots too many. Smith was hoping to become the first Mid-Amateur champion to play the weekend at Augusta, a feat he nearly achieved in 2004.
Also bowing out were U.S. Amateur champion Byeong-Hun An and Amateur runner-up Ben Martin, both of whom finished at 155. An carded a 77 Friday and Martin an 80.
Forty-eight players made the cut of 3-over 147, with one of the two non-USGA amateurs advancing. That would be 16-year-old Italian sensation Matteo Manassero, who bogeyed two of his last three holes for 76, but snuck in on the number.
“I actually played bad. But I made some important putts under pressure. That was a good thing after today,” said the 2009 British Amateur champion Manassero, whose idol is past Masters winner Seve Ballesteros of Spain.
Asian Amateur champion Chang-Won Han posted 76-155. Last year, Augusta National, with help from The R&A, created the Asian Amateur in an effort to grow the game in the Far East and have decided to award a Masters invite to the winner.
Benjamin used an impeccable short game to keep himself in the tournament for as long as possible. He also could point to his play around Amen Corner – holes 11-13. He covered that stretch in one under par over two days. Still, the golf course grabbed him in other places – namely the last four holes, which the left-hander played in three over.
“I learned a heck of a lot just in these two days,” said Benjamin, who plans to defend his APL title in July at Bryan Park Golf Course in Greensboro, N.C., and remain an amateur throughout the summer.
An, 18, said he also learned a few things. “It was a good week. I learned what I need to work on,” said the Korean youngster, who needed 64 putts over the two rounds on Augusta’s difficult greens. An is headed to the University of California-Berkeley in the fall.
Martin, 22, a senior at Clemson University, had even more trouble on the putting surfaces, needing 68 strokes. But he wasn’t about to let those frustrations mar an otherwise memorable week.
“You never know when you're going to get out here, and I was fortunate that I played well in the U.S. Am last year and got a spot, so I hope this is the first of many,” said Martin, who now prepares for the Atlantic Coast Conference tournament in two weeks. Martin grew up an hour from Augusta and attended the Masters on many occasions before finally earning the invite with his performance last August at Southern Hills Country Club in Tulsa, Okla. He also qualified for the 2009 U.S. Open at Bethpage, where he missed the cut.
“Yeah, it'll be a little different with about four or five people out there watching instead of 30,000 or 40,000, but that's kind of what I'm used to, so maybe I can get back in my element and do a little something,” added Martin about returning to college golf.
Playing in his second Masters, Smith, 31, of Pittsburgh, made the turn at three over and needed to par in to play on the weekend. Bogeys at 10 and 16 left him needing a miracle, but he couldn’t convert birdie chances at the final two holes. Unlike Benjamin, the 2009 USA Walker Cup Team member seemed to take the disappointment more in stride. He did beat his total from his '04 appearance by one shot (78-72-150).
“Coming down here and playing this course a lot, those are two really good scores for me on this course,” said Smith, who drove it particularly well over two days, hitting 24 of 28 fairways. “I kind of beat my score from before by one shot, considering that I thought that this course was probably 400 yards longer than it was then and the field is a lot stronger. I am not disappointed at all; I’m really not.”