3 Champions Find Way Back To
April 7, 2008
By Alex Davidson
Augusta, Ga. - The Masters Tournament is one of the most
cherished perks for a select group of golf's amateur
champions. Sometimes, it can turn out to be a
once-in-a-lifetime experience, though many determined
amateurs end up finding their way back to Augusta National
Golf Club as professionals.
In this year's Masters, three former USGA champions
can, with some relief, say that they're not going to be
one-hit wonders when it comes to competing in the
year's first major championship.
D.J. Trahan, Hunter Mahan and Brandt Snedeker are among the
roughly 100 players expected to start Thursday in Augusta,
Ga. Each man is competing for the first time as a
professional after making his debut as an amateur
contestant years earlier.
"I think we won't have that shock and awe factor
this time around," said Mahan, speaking not only for
himself but also for anyone getting a second look at
gorgeous Augusta. "Obviously, it's an incredible
experience just to be there, but you don't want to go
back there just for the experience. The first time you just
want to take it all in. Now you want go there and play
All three players qualified by winning PGA Tour events
since the 2007 Masters, a qualifying route that Augusta
National Chairman Billy Payne re-instituted last spring.
Trahan won the Bob Hope Chrysler Classic in January.
Snedeker triumphed at the final regular season Tour event
at the Wyndham Championship last August. Mahan earned his
berth via a playoff win in the Travelers Championship.
"I'm really glad they let the tournament winners
back in," said Mahan, 25, of Plano, Texas.
Runner-up to Ricky Barnes in the 2002 U.S. Amateur, Mahan
will have the most difficult time improving on his rookie
appearance. In the '03 Masters Mahan carded rounds of
73-72-73-76 to end up at 6-over-par 294, good for a tie for
"I know what I need to do to play well," said
Mahan, who defeated current PGA Tour player and 2008
Masters competitor Camilo Villegas to win the 1999 U.S.
Junior Amateur title. "I love the golf course, the way
it's designed and shaped, and I think it suits my game
pretty well. You have to think your way around, and play
the slopes and handle the speed of the greens. I'll
know what to expect this time, and I think I'll be
Snedeker, who won the '03 U.S. Amateur Public Links
title, has a similar mindset. He shot 73-75-75-77-300 in
the '04 edition as an amateur to tie for 41
, and he expects that he'll be better prepared this
"My goal last time was just to make the cut.
I'm not going back just to be satisfied with
that," said the 27-year-old from Nashville, Tenn.
"There's just a different feeling this time.
I'm excited for sure, but I'm not going to be in
awe like before."
Trahan, who qualified for the '01 Masters after taking
the 2000 APL while still at Clemson University, didn't
get four rounds in the first time around. The Atlanta
native shot 78-75-153 to miss the cut.
"Obviously I think anybody will tell you the first
time they play there, some play better than others, but it
seems to be a little bit of an overwhelming
experience," said the 27-year-old Trahan.
"I'm excited. I feel like obviously with several
years of professional golf behind me, a little bit more
experience, a little bit more mature, I'm hoping I can
go there with some of the experiences I have from being out
here for four years now and maybe not quite be might not be
such a big stage to me as it was when I was 20 years
While the characteristics of Augusta National will be the
same, the trio won't be facing quite the same par-72
golf course they encountered as amateurs. When Trahan
traversed Augusta, it measured just 6,925 yards. Snedeker
and Mahan challenged a layout lengthened to 7,290 yards.
For the 72nd rendition of the Masters, Augusta National
will measure 7,445 yards. Trahan lives in Charleston and
has driven to Augusta to play the course several times in
the weeks leading up to the tournament.
"No question, it's very different," said
Trahan. "There's a ton of length, they added some
trees, they have just redone a couple greens, a couple new
"You know Augusta every year - they change the place
to a certain extent. It's an amazing place; it's
amazing what they do around there but it is definitely a
completely different golf course for us."
That hardly changes anyone's expectations.
"I'm going there to try and win, and not just play
well," said Snedeker, a former Vanderbilt
All-American. "Every part of my game is better than
when I played there last time. The biggest thing is
handling the pressure and getting used to that atmosphere,
and having been through it now, that's huge."
Added Mahan: "You can't win unless you're
invited. And if you're going to go, you might as well
go there with the intention of winning. That's my
Alex Davidson is a freelance writer whose work has
appeared previously on www.usga.org.